Cosatu plans strike over Gauteng toll roads
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Gauteng is planning a strike and stayaway over the imminent introduction of additional toll fees in the province, it announced on Friday.
"The PEC [provincial executive committee] has resolved to fight tooth and nail this system called toll gates," said provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile at a media briefing.
The announcement of the tolling system in South Africa's economic powerhouse sparked a public outcry—consumer groups and unions said the poor would be the hardest hit.
Dakile announced a "programme of action" to deal with the e-toll system, to be implemented later this year.
Cosatu in the province would submit a Section 77, or strike notice, to the National Economic Development and Labour Council on February 28.
Negotiations would then unfold.
It would call for a public march on March 12, a mass demonstration on all Gauteng highways on March 19 and a public meeting on March 26.
The federation would also call for a stayaway on April 8.
"We will also engage with the department of roads and transport, the premier and also within the alliance to reverse the ill-informed decision without consulting our people," he said.
Dakile said Cosatu in the province approached its alliance partner in the province, the ANC, in November last year to be briefed on the tolling system.
"They also responded that they had never been briefed," he said.
The ANC and Cosatu then approached the department of transport in the province and were then updated on the implementation of the tolling system.
"They did not consult with Cosatu or even the ANC itself," he said.
However, he added that the Gauteng ANC's response to the tolling system fell short of rejecting it entirely. The ANC's provincial secretary, David Makhura, has described the likely impact of the tolling system as "disastrous".
Turning to Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele's comments on the system—urging people who did not like it to use public transport—Dakile said Ndebele should experience public transport for a month to give him a "better understanding" of the hardships faced by most South Africans.
"The trains are always late and in some instances do not arrive at all.
"The introduction of the Gautrain in the province will not resolve the crisis, nor is the BRT [bus rapid transit] system capable in its current form to address such a crisis," he said.
"Gauteng does not have a public transport system that is reliable, safe or affordable."
Ndebele on Thursday called for "constructive proposals and solutions" to the tolling system and for "further engagement".
"Over the past weeks, we have been listening to the various views regarding the tolling of the GFIP [Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project]. There will be further engagement on this matter. However, constructive proposals and solutions are required.
"There will be no scapegoats," he said. "These engagements will culminate in a specific roads funding summit in March 2011 by the department of transport, to resolve the GFIP tolling issue as well as other pertinent issues related to the funding, construction and maintenance of roads in South Africa."
Discounts and frequent users
Earlier this month, the South African National Roads Agency Limited announced that motorists could expect to pay 66 cents a kilometre before discounts when travelling on the 185km Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
Motorists who purchased the e-tag system would pay 49,5 cents a kilometre, while medium-sized vehicles with the e-tag system will be charged R1,49 a kilometre. Heavy-duty vehicles with an e-tag will be charged R2,97 per kilometre.
Motorists would get further discounts depending on when they used the highway and on whether they were frequent users.
Users of the 185km system would not have to stop at a traditional toll booth, but drive under gantries, fitted with electronic equipment as well as cameras, which photograph the vehicle's number plate and measure its size.
Gantries are positioned between 5km and 14km apart—an average of 10km.—Sapa