Finance Minister Tito Mboweni says the decision by the board of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) to temporarily suspend summonses to recover e-toll debt, is a bad one and should be reversed immediately.

He was speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria earlier on Thursday. The Board of the South African National Roads Agency announced this week that it was suspending the process of pursuing e-toll debt.

This will include historic debt and summonses applied for by Sanral from 2015.

Mboweni has made it clear that he is not in support of the move.

“I am very unhappy with the decision by Sanral board not to pursue those who have been defaulting on the e-tolls. It’s a very bad decision; they should never have taken that decision. It is not helpful in the bond market. It is undermining what we have said in the budget that we support the user must pay principle and they must reverse that decision immediately.”

In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement as well as in the Budget Speech, he urged motorists to pay up.

“This has implications for the bond market, the fiscus and their own credit rating and the credit rating of the country and people must learn that you don’t take a careless decision in the middle of a financial crisis.”

However, government continues to send out mixed messages.

“We urge anyone not to jump the gun and give us the process, the president is looking for an amicable solution to this issue,” says Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande.

Just last week Nzimande said stakeholder discussions were at a sensitive stage.

“The reality that we face is that we owe money for these beautiful highways, the issue is how do we pay for them so that is what we are looking at with a view to finding a solution as soon as possible, we urge people to be calm. We spoke to Sanral to handle the matter sensitively especially now that we are having these discussions which involve the premier of Gauteng.”

Meanwhile Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse  (Outa) says it is flabbergasted by Mboweni’s comments.

“All it does is take government’s crisis of legitimacy to a higher level, the left hand doesn’t know what it’s doing , this is a bad reflection for investors, it’s certainly a joke right now,” says Chief Executive Officer of Outa Wayne Duvenage.

The Gauteng African National Congress earlier welcomed Sanral’s decision. It has been one of the strongest e-toll critics, constantly lobbying for its scrapping.

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