E-tolls: We’ll barricade the highways, vows Vavi

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warned the government on Wednesday that the labour federation would not permit e-tolling to go ahead, as it would “drive poor people off our highways”.

He was addressing tens of thousands of Cosatu protesters — a crowd that some police officials said was the largest mass action to take place in Johannesburg since the 1980s — before handing over a memorandum of demands to Gauteng transport minister Ismail Vadi and premier Nomvula Mokonyane outside the latter’s office in the Johannesburg CBD on Wednesday.

In what is called the largest planned civil protest since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, thousands of Cosatu members and supporters took to the streets of Johannesburg on Wednesday to oppose e-tolling and labour broking. We spoke to the crowd that surged through the city’s streets.

“The majority of our poor use these highways cos there is no other alternative. [The government is] telling us to tighten our belts but our belts are already on the bone. It’s enough now,” he said.

“So we are here to fire our first warning shot, and we’ve got lots of bullets!”

“If e-Tolls is enforced we’ll barricade highways,” vowed Vavi. “The same way we made the Apartheid system ungovernable, we’ll make this system ungovernable if they don’t listen to us.”

‘Phuma! Phuma!’
After Vavi’s address, marchers begin shouting “Phuma! Phuma! (Come Out!)” to the premier to accept the memorandum. Mokonyane emerged to accept the memorandum, accompanied by Vadi.

“I accept this memo,” said Mokonyane. “But we must talk about our issues.”

In the memorandum, Cosatu says the the private operator of the controversial toll system is going to “milk” the public.

“All the evidence indicates that the revenues from the tolls are going to be enormous, and that the loans will be paid off quickly, leaving the private operator to milk the public,” the memorandum reads.

Demanding the dismantling of the 42 toll gantries already straddling the N1, N3, N12, and R21, Cosatu said if more money was put into stopping fraud and corruption, government would easily have enough to fund road construction and maintenance.

According to the memorandum, the trade union federation is opposed to the tolls for the following reasons:

  • They will make it more expensive for the poor to travel by road, and will also increase food inflation by adding to the cost of transporting goods in and out of Gauteng;
  • Toll roads will further exclude the poor and create divisions; and
  • Public transport is still “woefully inadequate” with a third of workers using their private cars to get to work.

“This is not a free choice. It is because our public transport system is expensive, unsafe, and unreliable,” the memorandum reads.

Besides the Bus Rapid Transit System put in place in Johannesburg and Cape Town, there had not been any new subsidised bus route in over 10 years, Cosatu said.

Cosatu also said that having the private sector operate the toll roads is the same as privatisation, which the federation opposes.

“We pay taxes so that government can build and maintain roads, hospitals, schools, etc.

“For all of the above reasons, we demand the dismantling of the Gauteng motorway gantries, and the immediate halting, for good, of the Gauteng open tolls.” — Additional reporting by Sapa

Follow the Mail & Guardian‘s coverage of Cosatu’s 2012 march

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sapa Afp
Guest Author

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday