Cosatu to turn Gauteng's streets red over tolls

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Thursday it would proceed with mass action at the end of February next year against the implementation of the Gauteng tolling system.

Speaking at a media briefing, Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said the federation would issue a final notice in Nedlac that would give it the right to a protected strike.

“In the meantime, we are urging people not to buy e-tags and, if the tolls have not been scrapped, we will be encouraging motorists to drive through the tolls without paying.

“In this act of civil disobedience, we shall not present ourselves to the courts and will not pay fines imposed for merely using public roads that shall remain a public route,” Vavi stated.

Turning Gauteng red
Last week Cosatu threatened to “turn the streets of Gauteng red” and protest to have the planned tolls in the province scrapped.

Workers were at the losing end of the tolls, Cosatu official Dumisani Dakile told the Gauteng petition standing committee in Johannesburg.

He said some companies had already indicated that they would retrench workers if the tolls were implemented next year due to costs of business increasing.

“We heard that Sanral is already registering tags for tolling while this [hearing] process is taking place. It must be called into order,” he said, referring to the South African National Roads Agency Limited.

“To make matters worse, Sanral started with the open road tolling, which is a modernised privatisation of public roads.
With this system Sanral aims to force people to use public transport which is currently inadequate.”

‘One tax too many’
Dakile called for the scrapping of the tolls and the disbandment of Sanral.

“If it takes turning the streets red, Cosatu is prepared to do so,” he said. Other petitioners present have pledged to join Cosatu’s protests.

Members of the public have called for the scrapping of the planned tolls set to come into effect in February.

Commuter Tshepiso Makeleng told a public hearing in Johannesburg that he worked as a consultant and travelled about 200km a day to meet clients around Gauteng.

He said he would end up paying too much from his commission-only income and asked for the tolls to be scrapped.

Scrap the tolls
The South African National Civic Organisation said long queues at taxi ranks were an indication that there were not enough minibuses to transport Gauteng commuters.

Democratic Alliance Gauteng MPL Jack Bloom brought a Sanral advertisement to the hearing to show that it was continuing with plans to implement the tolls even before public hearings had been concluded.

He called on the legislature to reflect the views of Gauteng motorists and scrap the tolls, which will cost between R0.40/km and R2/km, depending on the class of vehicle.

“These tolls are one tax too many,” Bloom said.

Addressing concerns
Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi acknowledged concerns raised by petitioners, particularly about the lack of consultation.

He said it was of concern that Sanral was going ahead with toll plans while public hearings were still underway.

However, he said his department did not have the power to address these concerns.

Vadi said he could only communicate them to the national transport department.

The hearings continue.—I-Net Bridge, Sapa

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