Young Communists warn of revolt over toll fees

There will be a working-class revolt if the planned “looting” of commuters through road toll fees goes ahead, the Young Communist League of South Africa said on Tuesday.

“The currently proposed expensive, elite-driven tollgate collection fee constitutes a further attack on the already agitated working class of Gauteng, mainly the youth. We declare to the powers that be that it is only a matter of time that the working class revolts,” said YCLSA Gauteng information officer Vincent Masoga.

The league’s is the latest voice of outrage over the proposed charge of 66 cents per kilometre before discounts at 42 electronic toll gates on the N1, N3, N12, N17, R21 and R24 on a 185km stretch around Johannesburg and Tshwane.

This is to recoup R20-billion spent on a roads upgrade.

The league said that the working class, already “displaced” to “apartheid geography” settlements, with prohibitions of freedom of movement and access to places of work and study, were not consulted, and would be pushed further into poverty.

“As usual, the looters are made up by an axis between foreign and established local capitals on the one hand and on the other hand [black economic empowerment] capitalists,” they said.

ETC Joint Venture won the R6,22-billion tender to build and operate the system. Swedish and Austrian branches of the traffic technology company Kapsch holds 65%, and South African company TMT holds 35%.

There will be increased costs to “survivalist” micro-enterprises and, the league said, the working class would be pushed into a “slaughter guillotine” with an “already expensive and chaotic transport” system.

Projects such as the Gautrain were not even being used by the elite, with the feeder buses largely empty in the northern suburbs, while Metrorail was unsafe, overcrowded and unreliable.

“Our people will soon forget about all the nice words of ‘commitment to constitutional democracy’ if they continue to be neglected. It is wrong to promote public development through the privatised services that enrich a few from amongst the historically oppressed, established and foreign capitalists.”

They called for a provincial public transport summit and that toll fees be reversed, not just suspended.

Gauteng commuters, already battling the high costs of travelling the affected routes were stunned by the announcement in February that the toll fees would be payable from June.

Nazir Alli, CEO of the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), countered criticism of the system — known as the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project — by questioning whether the country wanted foreign investment or not.

As a result of the public reaction, the gazetted fees were suspended and a committee hastily assembled to revisit the matter. The committee is expected to report back at the end of April.

Written submissions can be forwarded for the attention of: The Director General, Department of Transport, 159 Struben Street, Pretoria, 0002.

Meanwhile, fees on other toll roads in the country will go up by 4,71% on Tuesday. – Sapa

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