President Jacob Zuma remains unapologetic about his decision to sign the controversial Transport and Related Matters Amendment bill into law, paying the way for the levying of e-tolls in Gauteng.

Addressing academics, businesspeople and professionals at Wits University last night Zuma said the user-pays principle, which will be rolled out across the province’s freeways shortly, was a global practice.

In parliamentary written replies released earlier yesterday, Zuma said he was not required by the constitution to consider the impact of e-tolls on citizens.

He instead argued that e-tolls would ultimately prove beneficial to Gauteng’s economy.

Zuma said the tolls would “make the economy flow in Gauteng”.

“This is what all the econo-mies do in the world,” he said in defence of the user-pays principle.

E-tolls have been met with much consternation from the public.

Suggestions have been made that an increase in the fuel levy would have been a far more palatable option.

But Zuma said it would not be “fair” to force citizens from outside Gauteng to pay a levy that would go towards maintaining only roads in the province.

Lobby group Outa recently had its application to halt implementation of the e-toll system rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Gauteng motorists need to repay a R20-billion loan that was used to help finance the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Programme.

Zuma’s interaction with professionals last night follows a push by the Gauteng ANC to have former President Thabo Mbeki roped in to attract the middle class ahead of the general election.

Party leaders in the province had apparently concluded that Zuma would not be suitable for the role.

The move exposed deep-seated divisions within the ruling party and was heavily criticised by national ANC leaders.

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