Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Govt pensions to be hit if toll plans stall
SA Time: Wed Mar 14 2012 17:11:26 GMT+0200 (South Africa Standard Time)
March 11 2012 at 09:58am
By George Matlala and Moffet Mofokeng
Comment on this story
Billions in civil servants pensions will be affected if the controversial Gauteng tollgates project is halted by public resistance and civil defiance. Photo: Mujahid Safodien
George Matlala and Moffet Mofokeng
Billions in civil servants’ pensions will be affected if the controversial Gauteng tollgates project is halted by public resistance and civil defiance.
The Public Investment Corporation – an investment manager for state institutions – has bought R17 billion of Sanral bonds over years for infrastructure development. Eighty-nine percent of assets under PIC management are made up of the Government Employees Pension Fund.
SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) – a state transport body managing the tolls – awarded more than R6 billion to a consortium known as Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) to take over the project for eight years.
PIC chief executive Elias Masilela yesterday told Independent Newspapers that they were “concerned” about the failure of e-tolls because it would have an indirect impact on employees’ pensions as the state was the underwriter – assuming financial risk.
“For us we think it will be too narrow to look at the implication for PIC.
If Sanral is not meeting its objectives and its debt obligations, it means the state gets affected because they underwrite (our) bonds, the taxpayers get affected and members of the (Government Employees Pension Fund) are the very taxpayers who will be affected.
“We are concerned because there is a bigger macro economic issue involved,” he said.
A top government official, who refused to be named because he is not the official spokesman on the e-tolls matter, told The Sunday Independent that their concern about the government pension fund was one of the reasons they had to save the project at all costs, despite public resistance.
“If this collapses it will impact on the liquidity of pension funds,” said the official, who is closely involved in the transportation and tolling processes.
He said the government hoped to rely on some of the 1.3 million civil servants, who drive to work daily, to fund the project amid Cosatu vowing to make it unworkable.
The federation took to the streets this week and has threatened to disrupt the highways.
Gauteng Transport Department spokeswoman Octavia Mamabolo said on Tuesday that “we (are) starting the process to register (the) government fleet”.
The provincial government would set up a kiosk at government institutions to get employees to buy e-tags at a discount.
The Gauteng government has an estimated 6 000 cars. It employs about 167 000 but not all have cars.
Transport Minister spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso said the minister welcomed Premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s decision to register her staff and cars.
“We encourage all departments in all three spheres of the government to do the same,” he said.
However, Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven still insisted on urging motorists not to buy e-tags as it was not a law.
He said leaders of the federation were not aware that the PIC was an investor in Sanral.
Meanwhile, the e-tolls issue has caused sharp divisions in the ANC and its alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that the ANC in Gauteng has written a letter to party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe complaining about the SACP’s comments that the ruling party in the province was conflicted on the tolling saga as some of its leaders had business interests.
Dumisa Ntuli, spokesman for the ANC in Gauteng, said: “Our attitude is that we must know where this thing comes from and avoid creating unnecessary tension before engaging the party (SACP).”
Mantashe refused to be drawn into the matter.
In its statement, released last month, the SACP said what needed to be scrutinised retrospectively on the tolling system was the role of provincial political interests “in championing the early planning and implementation of this costly project for infrastructure that will be used overwhelmingly by the relatively wealthy”.
“The real question we need to ask is: how did we come to spend R20 billion on freeway expansions, on a network that is barely used by public transport vehicles, and in a province in which some 60 percent of households have no access whatsoever to a car?”
The Sunday Independent reported last year March that companies linked to ANC billionaire Tokyo Sexwale and former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka had cashed in on the construction of 185km of toll roads.
Comments by Sonny
This is what the ANC Government and SANRAL were trying to blot out in BLACK.
The last paragraph speaks for itself about who stands to gain from this illegal venture!
Who's little dirty fingers were pulling the strings......!