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Shoprite to boycott e-tolls?


A very quiet and low-key announcement was made recently by supermarket giant, Shoprite. A, seemingly, insignificant announcement that definitely “flew under the radar” and which went largely unremarked by virtually all of the country’s “mainstream” newspapers. And they should have been paying more attention. Because whenever an enormous multi-national company such as Shoprite even hints that they are “thinking of applying for an exemption from e-tolls”, the government, SANRAL and big business should immediately be pressing the big red ‘emergency’ button and start paying very, very close attention.


After all, when a company that has 1 700 South African stores, a further 163 stores across 15 countries outside South Africa, employs tens of thousands of people and has just declared a 28.1% increase in turnover to rake in over R51 BILLION, they are not exactly rinky-dink. And when a company that size is thinking about saving an anticipated R4 million a year by not paying e-tolls in order to “save on food distribution costs” – you can be pretty sure it’s not so much about the money and actually a whole lot about the principle of the matter. After all, Shoprite thinking is just in line with the general public perception of Gauteng’s e-tolls as being inherently flawed and unfair to the South African public – who regard those same e-toll routes as having been “bought and paid for” out of their taxes a long time ago.


The point is, whereas the Gauteng government and SANRAL will probably not go bankrupt if they don’t get Shoprite’s cash, they will most definitely be driven to the poor-house if Shoprite gains an exemption – which will immediately be the signal for a clamour of “me too!” applications from virtually every other big business in the country. Other retailers and a deluge of cash-strapped customers will be following Shoprite’s next move with close interest.  

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