E-tolling was intended to help reduce congestion on Gauteng's roads, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said in Johannesburg on Friday.
"The Gauteng freeway improvement project was conceived as part of a strategy to solve the problem of congestion on the Gauteng highways.
"Having considered various options for decongestion... government came to the conclusion that the user-pay model was the most equitable.
"So, as we discuss various funding options, let us not lose sight of the fact that in the end our highways must be decongested."
Motlanthe was speaking at a meeting between Business Unity SA and the inter-ministerial committee on the Gauteng freeway project. Motlanthe chairs the committee set up to deal with problems on Gauteng freeways, after a court interdict halted e-tolling pending a full judicial review. The government has since approached the Constitutional Court to appeal against the interdict.
Friday's meeting was the first of such consultations by the committee and more were already scheduled with other organisations in the coming weeks.
"As we discuss this project and consider the various suggestions on the funding model, it is necessary that we remind ourselves of the rationale for this project."
Motlanthe said peak times on highways increased by 15 minutes every year, and the congestion had a negative impact on the economy. Almost half of South Africa's vehicles were concentrated in Gauteng, which was also the smallest province geographically.
The bulk of the province's public transport was road-based. With increasing congestion, even public transport would be rendered inefficient. Most of the roads had reached the end of their design capacity.
"The user-pay principle is used in many cities of the world where severe traffic congestion is experienced," Motlanthe said.
Part of the decongestion strategy was to ensure there were alternative roads and reliable public transport for those who opted not to use toll roads.
"The Gauteng provincial government has already commenced with major rehabilitation projects on the alternative roads that link the major cities in the province."
The transport department was working with the Gauteng provincial government and municipalities to ensure public transport was reliable and efficient.
"I hope that today's deliberations set us on the road to a workable solution for the future of Gauteng's roads and economy, and the future of the country's development as a whole," Motlanthe said.