STAKEHOLDERS and transport users have condemned a planned increase of 8% in vehicle licence fees in the Eastern Cape from July 1 2012.

The hike will make vehicle owners in the province pay the fourth highest fees in the country.

The increase applies to registration, renewals and roadworthy tests, with the exception of personalised number plates and agency fees for registering authorities, according to the provincial department of transport.

Motorists, taxi associations and the DA responded with disdain to the proposed increase.

They claimed the petrol price was already steep and the state of the province’s roads continued to be appalling and life threatening.

Johan Pienaar, DA Eastern Cape shadow MEC for roads and transport, said: “It is rather depressing to speak about roads in this province. Wherever I turn I can only see incompetence and problems.

“Until there is a clear plan to utilise this 8% increase towards fixing the roads, the figure is unjustified and unfortunate.”

The department is losing thousands of rands from claims for vehicle damages caused by potholes and other problems related to the roads.

Ntsikelelo Goniwe, spokesman for the Mdantsane/East London and Districts Taxi Association, said that whatever percentage the government imposed on them was always going to be to their detriment.

“Unlike other sectors of transport, we are not subsidised, we have high vehicle instalments, our licence fees are already double because roadworthiness of our vehicles is constantly in check, not to mention the amount of petrol we consume everyday,” Goniwe said.

Goniwe said the taxi industry continued to take government punches and carry the cost because they would not be able to increase taxi fares.

Motor vehicle licence renewal currently costs between R138 and R12 231 depending on the size of the vehicle.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation Act empowers the Minister of Transport to make regulations to fund the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

In terms of the law, local registering authorities must pay the corporation a transaction fee which is added to licence fees.

According to the provincial department of transport spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca, the increase was discussed at various meetings and agreed upon in terms of the National Road Traffic Act as well as the Provincial Road Traffic Act, the RTMC and the provincial treasury.

“This is an annual decision taken by the executive council. Previously it was done every second year but due the fact that the Eastern Cape province was at that stage seventh lowest in fees the aim of the resolution was to bring the province on par with other provinces,” he said.

The increase of 8% is based on the current economic situation and inflation rate.

Mabandla Mabutho, a motorist from East London, said government was making it impossible and unpleasant to own and drive a car in the province.

“I drive a Mercedes Benz and the amount of money I spend on petrol is mind-blowing. I cannot use public transport because the experience is traumatic,” Mabutho said.

“Now to add to my woes, an 8% hike, this makes me feel trapped.”

Other motorists claimed that the state of the provinces’ roads, especially the growing number of potholes, was already costing them a lot of money with constant wheel alignment checks, tyre changes, damaged windscreens, replacement of wheel caps and damaged rims.

The department of roads and public works in the province is in the middle of a three-year R1.5-billion Roads Contractor Development Programme with the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) to fix Eastern Cape’s major routes.

However, the DA says up to half of that money was being spent on administration by both the roads department and CDC because of the duplications of tasks.

Buffalo City Metro spokesman Samkelo Gqeba said the municip roads department had formulated an annual road maintenance plan and programme for all routes under its jurisdictions.

“The plan entails short-term maintenance in the form of pothole patching and long-term which includes sourcing of additional funding for reconstruction of roads that has passed its maintenance plan,” Gqeba said.

He added that despite challenges, such as a shortage of bitumen used to fix potholes and the heavy rains which damage city road infrastructure, the metro is committed to maintain and develop the city’s roads infrastructure. — khuthalan@