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Going nowhere slowly: Cosatu lays out e-toll protest plan

Nickolaus Bauer

Highways in Ekurhuleni and Jo'burg will be gridlocked on Thursday as Cosatu protests against the controversial e-tolling system.

Cosatu says Thursday's drive-slow should go ahead without violence. (Delwyn Verasamay, M&G)

In what was initially billed as a protest to bring highways in the province to a standstill, the labour federation has now decided to lead convoys of at least 100 cars on routes in the two cities.

"We are calling on all interested parties to come forward and join this protest," Dumisani Dakile, the Congress of South African Trade Union's (Cosatu) Gauteng secretary told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.

"This is about taking on a system that will cost workers and everyday citizens too much money."

The Johannesburg leg of the action will begin in Braamfontein, with protestors gathering in Jorissen Street outside Cosatu House from 6am.

Deploying at 9am, the convoy will travel down the M1 highway heading north from Smit Street.

Proceeding to the Buccleuch interchange, the convoy will move on the N1 south to the M2 east exit, before re-entering the Johannesburg city centre via Rissik Street.

Routes
The Ekurhuleni leg of the action will also commence at 6am, with protestors gathering at Mboro Church in Alrode.

The convoy is due to start at 9am, joining the Heidelburg Road on-ramp of the N3 and heading north along the N3, N12, R24, and R21 to the Nelmapius off-ramp in Centurion.

It will then head back south on the R21, travel down the N12 west towards Johannesburg and back on to the N3 south before arriving in Alrode.

Both convoys plan to travel at no faster than 10kph, and the trip is estimated to take seven hours and aim to finish at 3pm.

Cosatu also had plans to lead a protest convoy in Tshwane but called it off.

"This is just the beginning," Dakile said. "We will see how this protest goes and then see if we can get even bigger next year."

No violence
Cosatu added there would be measures in place to ensure the protest did not turn rowdy or violent, following reports last week that the labour federation planned to trash the system's gantries.

The controversial tolling system requires commuters to fit an e-tag that will monitor each time they pass a gantry on the highway and be charged electronically. Vehicles without an e-tag will have their licence plates monitored and billed for their journeys. If people refuse to fit e-tags, they will be barred from renewing their vehicle licenses until all outstanding fees have been paid and an e-tag fitted.

The government and the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) are squaring up against the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) in the North Gauteng High Court over the implementation of e-tolling.

Outa argues there was a lack of public consultation on the state's part in bringing the system into action.

An interdict was previously granted by the North Gauteng High Court against the introduction of e-tolling in April.

The Constitutional Court overturned the interdict, ruling that courts could not directly interfere in the implementation of government policy.

Indecision
Ratings agency Moody's previously warned the continued indecision over the implementation of e-tolling threatens South Africa's credit rating.

Cosatu could not confirm if Outa would officially be involved in Thursday's action but said the drive-slow would "assist" in their legal fight against the system.

"It is about showing government how angry citizens are and how opposed they are to e-tolling," Dakile said.


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