Lamola on e-tolling: Where are the white people?

Members of Cosatu marched against e-tolls in the Johannesburg city centre. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Members of Cosatu marched against e-tolls in the Johannesburg city centre. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The federation on Friday embarked on its second march this year against e-tolling, with a relatively smaller turn out than expected.

Various unions including National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), South African Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo), Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and others including the Young Communist League (YCL) and the ANC Youth League came out in support of the march in Johannesburg, which started at Mary Fitzgerald Square and continued to the office of the Gauteng premier in Simmonds Street and the Gauteng department of housing in Sauer Street.

Lamola said he was disappointed that many white people did not attend the march.

"The march represents all South Africans, rich and poor. We are disappointed that we have only seen a few whites. This is a march for all South Africans and a march for all our futures.
This must unite all of us."

Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said Friday's march was just the beginning of what is yet to come. "South Africans need to show where the power lies, which is not in the offices of those who can afford to pay for e-tolls.

"On December 6 at 5am, go to the nearest e-toll gantry and park your car there for the whole day. Everyone in the country, you must do this. Do it for one day so we can show where the power in this country lies".

On Wednesday, Cosatu threatened to demolish e-toll gantries if it was not scrapped. But a National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) shop steward Ephraim Lifuwa told the Mail & Guardian that he did not think they would go so far as to vandalise the gantries. "Our federation is very militant, so we have a lot of discipline. On the sixth we will slow traffic down, but I don't think we will take down the gantries because you know they are actually the resources of the country."

Lamola said that South Africans must not allow roads to be owned by private individuals. "This is a sophisticated way of stealing from the poor. I call on all the youth of South Africa to not buy e-tags and bring down the system."

Young Communist League chairperson Buti Manamela told the crowd that it was their constitutional right to have freedom of movement. "With the gantries of e-tolls, this means we will not be able to move."

He also said it was clear that money from e-tolling will go to "e-toll premiers".

Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance's chairperson, Wayne Duvenhage, also attended the march in his own capacity. He was called on stage by union leaders to address the crowd outside the premier's office, where he said that e-toll gantries must be taken down if South Africa intends to move forward.

"E-tolls will not be tolerated. We want that money to be put into better things so that our country can move forward. This peaceful march shows that we can make an impact in a non-violent way."

On Wednesday the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria reserved judgment on the future of e-tolling.

Cosatu has given the departments of transport, finance, and housing until 5pm on Monday to respond to their demands.

An official at the national treasury in Pretoria, Huntly Pringle, said they would do their best to give a reply by Monday.

The federation's provincial secretary Dumisane Dakile told a transport department official that if authorities were unable to demolish the gantries, "Call us, we have capable comrades."

"If we don't get a response, we are marching on the freeways. Comrades, bring your bicycles, we have organised tractors," Dakile said.

"This action for today is just a warm up ... We must brace ourselves for a series of actions ... If they are not going to respond positively, we are going to occupy all the streets on December 6."

During the marches, Cosatu called for Sanral to be disbanded and a commission of inquiry to be launched into the e-tolling system.

"We want to know who are the beneficiaries, because they are milking us of billions and billions of rands every year," said Dakile.

"Voetsek e-tolls, voetsek," he shouted.– Additional reporting by Sapa

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