Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has noted with suspicion the press statement of 21 August 2013, where South African National Roads Agency’s (SANRAL) spokesperson, Vusi Mona, attacks the Democratic Alliance (DA) use of e-Tolls for political gain. Mona is reported to have said the following: "The DA is using e-tolling as an electioneering strategy and is continuously misrepresenting the facts to win votes in next year's elections and SANRAL is not going to entertain politics."
OUTA chairperson, Wayne Duvenage, says that statements of this nature are seriously worrying as they start to blur the line of separation between party and state. "Sanral is an organ of state," he said. "Its job is to provide services to citizens irrespective of their political affiliation," he added. "By making statements on the political activities of a political party, SANRAL is drawing an organ of state into the political arena and therefore undermining our democracy."
Duvenage said that all political parties were free to comment on the actions of state-owned enterprises (SOE), be it e-Tolls, arms procurement, energy generation, state expenditure on private properties etc. This is the space of political and civil action entities that forms part of healthy democratic discourse. "If the DA, Agang [Agang South Africa], UDM [United Democratic Movement] or other political entities are able to convince voters that they would be able direct Sanral or other SOE’s in a manner more beneficial to the country’s citizens that the current ruling party, they are quite entitled to do so," he said.
"Likewise, the ANC [African National Congress] or any other political party is free to argue a similar points. What is not acceptable is for state-run organs themselves to become politically aligned. They should answer the queries and give facts but never enter the space of political mudslinging."
Mr Mona then ends his attack on the DA with the following confusing comment "We understand the politicking but we are not interested in it." Why then attack the DA’s politicking behaviour if indeed they understand it and are not interested in it? OUTA expresses serious concern at Sanral’s statements and regular misrepresentation of facts, which has become a liability for this State Owned Entity. Duvenage says "SANRAL’s attempts as an SOE to enter the political fray is just another milestone in a series of public relations mishaps which includes the following recent dubious and misleading statements:
- On 31 July, Mona stated that the number of toll gantries required at e-Tag rates to reach the (R450) cap was around 301 or roughly 2 760 kilometres on the e-Toll roads, whereas this figure is closer to almost half that number at 164 gantries and 1 600 kilometres;
- In June 2013, Mona denied that money from the GFIP e-tolling project would directly fund and benefit Austria’s Kapsch TraffiCom, whereas that company's own press release to the international investor community confirmed this was the case, to the tune of over R670 million per annum;
- Again, in June 2013, Mr Mona stated that at the end of April 2013, SANRAL had sales of 250 000 e-tags and following their recent ‘successful’ marketing campaign, e-Tag sales had been boosted by over 100 percent in six weeks, taking their e-Tag sales up to 600 000 by mid-June;
- However, the Department of Transport had announced a year earlier in April 2012, their eTag sales had reached over 500 000 and this number had crept up to 600 000 by December 2012.
"A major reason for the public’s rejection of e-tolling has been the failure of SANRAL to engage and communicate openly and honestly with the public", states Duvenage. "SANRAL now has to increase their marking and public relations budget by over 200 percent to R85 m per annum in order to rectify its shattered integrity and poor image, yet they continue to shoot themselves in the foot by making such rash and misleading statements on a regular basis. The public have lost faith in this once credible organ of the state and will not succumb to their spin doctor tactics and self-gratifying publications and press inserts," concluded Duvenage.
For more information contact:
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance
Mobile: 082 884 6652
For more about the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, refer to www.outa.co.za/site/
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