March 13, 2012

Protests over e-tolls in Gauteng

The controversial e-tolling system will be rolled out on April 30 across Gauteng's highways, regardless of the intense public opposition, the Gauteng government has announced. "In as much as we hear the objections against e-tolling, we believe we've done all we can in consulting and making concessions -- the time has come to implement this Cabinet decision," Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane said. This announcement was made less than a week after trade union federation Cosatu hosted the largest planned civil protest since the dawn of democracy, with thousands of South Africans taking to the streets in opposition to e-tolling and labour broking.

Despite a memorandum of demands calling for the complete scrapping of e-tolling being delivered to Mokonyane personally, the premier believes the system must go ahead. "We are firmly of the opinion this is the only way these improvements could be funded. Our roads were not like this 10 years ago. It is our responsibility to pay what is due," Mokonyane added.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the labour federation would continue opposing the system. "We cannot accept at this stage that the time for consultation is over and we'll do everything in our power within the alliance to reverse this decision to implement the tolls," Craven said. However, he could not confirm if Cosatu would carry out threats to barricade the city's highways if the system was implemented. "Nothing is definite, but we're exploring all options," Craven said. The nationwide march nearly brought the economy to a standstill as thousands of workers heeded the union federation's call to strike -- regarded as the biggest since 1980s.

The R20-billion Sanral project saw 185 kilometres of Gauteng's road network being upgraded with a view to reducing congestion on the province's M1 and N1 highways. The system will see the Gauteng road users billed electronically when using the province's N1 highway. The tolling requires commuters to fit an e-tag which will monitor each time they pass a specific gantry on the highway and be charged accordingly. Cars without e-tags will have their licence plates monitored and billed for their journeys. Cosatu has expressed concerns that current regulations would not offer enough clarity on the billing process faced by roads users and fails to protect them against incorrect fees. (Mail&Guardian)

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