South Africa: Pule Mabe's User-Pays Principle Needs a Reality Check


For many months, as the decision to scrap or retain the e-toll scheme looms large for the umpteenth time, the ANC spokesperson (Pule Mabe) along with others in government leadership, continue to beat the 'User-Pays Principle' drum when it comes to the justification of its decision to keep the e-toll scheme alive.

I think very few would disagree with the principle of "user pays". It's universal, adopted since the dawn of humanity and in short, all economies are driven by this principle. If you want someone's services or products, you pay for them and if you want more, you pay more.

However, what Mr Mabe and his cohorts fail to grasp is that while Gauteng's e-toll scheme is indeed a "user-pays" one in principle, in reality it's a users-don't-pay scheme, well at least the vast majority thereof. And there's only one reason for this situation: the inability to enforce payment for the principle to work. If people don't pay, you have to entice or force them to do so and if you can't, you have a failed user-pays scheme.

I find it quite amusing when Mr Mabe, in his letter to the president on 10 November, says:

"The user-pay principle...

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