Absolutely everything is wrong with e-tolls, says Cosatu

E-tolling is one of the most immoral projects undertaken since the arms deal, Cosatu said on Wednesday.

“This matter touches on the core of governance. This matter touches on the core of leadership,” Cosatu provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile told the advisory panel on the socio-economic impact of e-tolls in Midrand. 

Dakile, before beginning his presentation, was critical of the panel’s terms of reference, saying “the terms of reference are very narrow”.

“We would have loved the terms of reference to be expanded,” he said. “Our members have been asking how many panels are we going to. This is not the first one.” 

Dakile said “absolutely everything’s wrong” with e-tolls. “E-tolls will add to the burden of the poor who will be forced to pay more to travel on highways, which were previously free of charge,” he said. “This thing will perpetuate exclusion in society … those that are able to afford [e-tolls] precisely because of their income … that income itself clearly reflects inequality in society.” 

Gauteng is Africa’s fourth-largest economy, with the impact of e-tolls beyond that of the pockets of those living in the province. “These [e-toll] roads are not killing Gauteng. They are killing the country,” Dakile said. “Gauteng is the fourth-largest economy on the continent. This is no ordinary province. 

“There is no company that will swallow this thing. They will pass it on to the workers.” 

Exemption from e-tolls a myth
He said South Africa had no public transport system, rather a commuter system. Current alternatives – such as taxi, bus and train services – were not reliable, safe, or efficient. “If I’m at work today, there is no guarantee I will be at work tomorrow,” he said. “For God’s sake, even accidents on trains … if you look at the high level of those killed on trains, they are more than the Palestinians by Israelis.” 

Registered taxis were also supposed to be exempt from e-tolls, which was a myth. “They [taxi operators] will come and tell you there are the bills they are receiving. This department of transport is chaos at best. They can’t issue permits,” Dakile said. 

The panel will focus on the implications and perceptions of financing the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and e-tolls. On Monday, the Gauteng provincial government announced that the panel would embark on a month-long consultation process, starting on Wednesday, with organisations and individuals. 

Organisations were invited to make submissions on the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the GFIP and e-tolls, and how e-tolling’s costs and benefits were distributed across society and the economy. The panel was expected to report to Premier David Makhura at the end of November. 

Labour would be heard on Wednesday, business on Thursday and Friday, and civil society from September 1 to 3. Information and knowledge institutions would be heard on September 4, and transport organisations from September 4. – Sapa

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