Muted beginning to Cosatu's e-tolls protest

Cosatu's Patrick Craven says the trade union federation is expecting a larger turnout. (Delwyn Verasamy, m&G)

Cosatu's Patrick Craven says the trade union federation is expecting a larger turnout. (Delwyn Verasamy, m&G)

There has been a lacklustre start to Cosatu's e-tolling demonstration as only a handful of protesters gathered to take part in the planned drive-slow.

Approximately 30 people brandishing placards reading "Down with e-tolls!" and "Join the protest" gathered at Cosatu House in Jorissen Street for the Johannesburg leg of the protest on Gauteng's freeway.

"We're expecting more people very soon," Patrick Craven, Cosatu spokesperson told the Mail & Guardian.

When pressed for details though, Craven could not provide them.

By 9am, police officers and the media assigned to monitor the protest outnumbered those protesting.

"Ja this is kak, but if people want to protest they must," said a SAPS officer who declined to be named.

In spite of the sparse turnout, Cosatu-aligned protesters were in high spirits.

"It's fine, we can protest with just us, we don't ned more people," Marie Cloete, a Cosatu member from Edenvale told the M&G.

'Stop being so apathetic'
Michael Meyer, a cargo controller from Randburg and non-aligned Cosatu protestor, said he was disappointed with the turnout.

"It's bullshit, middle-class folk complain but they do nothing," he said. "I'm self-employed and losing R3 500 today just by being here. People must stop being so apathetic."

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

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

The Ekhuruleni leg will also deploy at 9am, joining the Heidelburg Road on-ramp of the N3 and head north along the N3, N12, R24, and R21 to the Nelmapius off-ramp in Centurion.

Shortly before it was due to start, about 30 cars had gathered for the Ekurhuleni leg of the protest drive, nearly outnumbered by the police and Ekurhuleni Metro Police vehicles assigned to accompany the convoy – including one armoured vehicle.

Would-be protesters said their numbers would be sufficient to block their assigned highways, as well as the vehicle entrances to OR Tambo Airport, and that would send a clear message to the government.

Police on the scene were unconcerned about the convoy itself and said if they had any trouble to deal with, it would be protecting the convoy from irate motorists stuck behind it.

The Ekurhuleni route is due to follow the N3 and R24 to OR Tambo Airport, then go towards Pretoria along the R21, turning back to Johannesburg just before reaching the capital.

By 8.30am cars had been slathered with printed posters carrying messages such as "Demolish e-tolls, not people's houses" and "No to open road tolling system".

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