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E-tolling protest comes to screeching halt

Genevieve Quintal

The planned Freedom Front Plus protest over e-tolling on the N1 highway has been declared illegal because the group did not apply for permission.

The planned Freedom Front Plus protest over e-tolling on the N1 highway was declared illegal on Thursday because the group had not applied for permission.

“The police and metro police have declared this gathering illegal and they have said we must actually go through their channels in future,” Freedom Front Plus spokesperson Anton Alberts said.

“Our position is that this is not an illegal gathering. It’s a spontaneous gathering of people who are against the tolling system and we were just going to drive behind each other on the roads with normal cars around Johannesburg,” he said.

A camel, caravaners, motorcyclists and other vehicles had converged in the rain at the Ultra City on the highway for the protest during rush hour.

Johann van der Merwe, also known as “Mal Jan”, from Jacaranda 94.2’s breakfast show, arrived at the petrol station dressed in Saudi Arabian attire, riding the camel.

The protest was organised by the Freedom Front Plus, National Taxpayers’ Union, South African Caravan Association and various motorbike clubs.

It had been expected to start at 7am.

Alberts said the protest would not go ahead as planned and people would start to disperse so they could get to work.

Interpreting the law
An argument broke out between Alberts and the police over the protest.

“We have a different interpretation of the law,” said Alberts.

“We are very unhappy about this because the over-regulation in this country is getting to a point where people’s institutional rights, as far as we concerned, are being violated,” said Alberts.

“Government is talking about the information act that will inhibit the flow of information, and now suddenly a spontaneous gathering of people against a system that they find oppressive, like the tolling system, is now also being dispersed by police.”

Alberts said the group had considered going ahead with the protest and risk getting arrested.

“I don’t think they would have arrested us because they were quite scared about that but we decided not to make too much trouble with the law.”

He said they would attempt another protest sometime in the future.

Tolling of major roads around Johannesburg was expected to start on April 30.—Sapa

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