Unions save e-toll battle for local government election day
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The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Gauteng has threatened to embark on protest action on the day of the local government elections should Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula not make an announcement to scrap the e-tolls by the end of September.
The trade union federation's Provincial Chairperson, Amos Monyela, said, motorists' failure to pay their outstanding bills, even when the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) was offering discounts to motorists, was a true reflection of a boycott and the success of its campaign to have e-tolls scrapped.
“We call on motorists in Gauteng to continue to support our campaign and not their so-called e-toll accounts. If Minister Mbalula does not make an announcement favourable to our demands by the end of September, Cosatu in Gauteng will be left with no option but to protest on election day,” said Monyela.
He said, both President Cyril Ramaphosa and the previous administration under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, had failed to provide a solution on the e-tolls debacle.
“It is worse with this current administration, because it promised Gauteng citizens, through Mbalula, that an announcement on the solution was going to be made in November 2019, and to date, it has not happened. So this administration, has lied to the citizens of Gauteng,” he said.
The federation made these remarks following comments made by Transport Deputy Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, in an interview with eNCA, indicating that motorists would have to settle their e-toll bills.
Chikunga told the viewers that the scheme was no different to the taxes levied on national roads since the 1700s, and that these taxes were necessary for road infrastructure development. She said, residents would need to pay for the toll scheme, one way or another.
Monyela said, they were not surprised by Chikunga's “populist utterances” because “we are accustomed to a government that is pro-business and anti-working class in all respects”.
Monyela believes the deputy minister's comments could be a reflection of government's imminent decision on the subject.
“Though she is not a member of Cabinet, her utterances are loaded and they could mean that government might have decided that this policy will be forced on motorists, taking into consideration the delayed announcement, as promised.”
Motorist Tshidiso Mathinya, said government officials, including Mbalula, "were a bunch of liars".
Mathinya said, “They are not taking the views of civilians seriously. All they do is talk and take no action. The issue of e-tolls has been on for years and no one is taking a firm stand to say to hell with e-tolls, forever.”
The 35-year-old added: “I will no longer vote and I will even influence others not to vote because we are voting for nonsense. These people are not taking us seriously.”
Another motorist, Kedibone Mothupi, said, she was fed-up with the issue which has remained unresolved for years.
“I suspect they have taken a decision to implement the e-tolls and they will force us to pay. I think I should vote against the ANC this time around. To be specific, I will vote for these small opposition parties so the ANC loses majority rule,” said the 32-year-old.
She added: “I will also encourage people to go and vote, because if we do not vote, then the ANC will remain in power. We have to vote for all these small parties.”
Zakes Mokuwane, said, the implementation of e-tolls was a sign of a government that cares not much about the plight of its people.
“Look at how they are running it in Gauteng and how they went with it in Cape Town. Every time when the elections approach, the ANC would promise to get rid of the e-tolls, but after the elections, they forget everything about it. E-tolls are mere corruption.
"These people borrowed money from wherever they borrowed, to make money for themselves. I passed two gantries on my way to work and do you know how much it is at the end of the month? I would never pay that. If they want to take my car, they can and I will buy another one. But I won’t pay for e-tolls.
“SA is filled with scams, and the ANC on its own is a scam. They said they are working for the people, but no one is working for the people in the ANC,” said Mokuwane.
In May, Gauteng MEC for Transport Jacob Mamabolo, said the provincial government has been seized with the e-toll matter with a view to oppose its implementation in the province. He said, the provincial government was eagerly awaiting the announcement by the national government on the future of e-tolls.
Asked if the Chinkuga’s remarks mean government has taken a decision about the e-tolls, Transport spokesperson Lawrence Venkile, said the Cabinet is still poring through the matter. “Once a final decision has been made, we will communicate accordingly.”
Mamobolo said the provincial government remained firm in its call for the scrapping of e-tolls. “The Gauteng provincial government maintains and reaffirms its position that e-tolls must be scrapped, and we are firmly united with the residents, political parties, NGOs and many various stakeholders. We are one as a province on this issue. We made a comprehensive and detailed submission to national government, stating that position. We have explained the devastating financial impact that e-tolls have on the households of Gauteng.”
SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) spokesperson Trevor Shaku, said, to expect motorists to add e-tolls to their forever rising household bills that are not matched by wages, is a real burden.
“This is why Saftu calls on Gauteng residents to mobilise and unite to resist the e-tolls with boycotts, and even mass demonstrations. It is clear that the leaders at the top echelons, with their inflated remunerations, have detached themselves from the lives of ordinary people,” said Shaku.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) spokesperson Wayne Duvenage, said the public should resist paying the e-tolls because the system was introduced without meaningful public engagement.
“It is costly, inefficient, fraught with corruption and unenforceable. We maintain it was introduced unlawfully and until SANRAL tests that in court (as we were doing with them until March 2019, when they abandoned the case). We urge motorists not to pay and for those few (mainly corporate entities who make money off charging their customers for e-tolls and related admin fees) to stop paying,” said Duvenage.
Investec economist, Lara Hodes, said: "The implementation of e-tolls would add more financial burden to the people who are already paying hefty taxes, with little in return.
She said, “This, at a time when many consumers are struggling to meet key household expenses, and disposable incomes are being diminished by rising prices, while the looting and corruption of state capture over the past decade, has not seen much of the lost monies, which citizens paid for in taxes, recouped.”