It has been quite some time since I have come across as much irritation and agitation that has swept the public like E-tolls. Nkandla has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, but even that story has been eclipsed by the ongoing saga of e-tolls.
Now of course, since I live in the Western Cape, I am not currently (yet) affected directly by e-tolls, but I don’t think there are many motorists in SA who are not indirectly affected. It has been said that Gauteng is first, and then plans are afoot to bring the beloved e-tolls to the Western Cape, despite the DA’s determination to stop them. It has been interesting speaking to some visitors from Gauteng over the festive season and seeing their response to e-tolls. Almost everyone I have spoken to has said they refuse to pay e-tolls.
I think that if ever there was a test case for society to stand against something, this is it. In the past South Africans have been very apathetic and despite a few loyal die-hards who will picket and protest, they have always been in the minority, paving the way for them to be swept aside eventually. Take for example the opposition to tolling Chapman’s Peak drive (a road that affects me every day) – one lady even chained herself to the fence for a week or more, but opposition was too small-scale to have the desired effect and tolling went ahead.
There I hardly a talk-show on the radio that does not have callers speaking about e-tolls every day. Most callers speak of their objection in principle to e-tolls, but more and more people are now speaking about paying without registering for an e-tag. This seems to be the first step to capitulation. The way the system works, the only hope there is of truly halting the e-tolling process is if enough people stick to their guns, and do not pay (and do not register). The more people who pay anyway, despite their objection, the more likely the e-tolls are to succeed. For once, I am really rooting for everyone in Gauteng to get this right. It is hard to know what I would do under the pressure, and it would be hard for me to justify breaking the law, no matter how reprehensible it seems. So I empathise with everyone in Gauteng and I understand how hard this must be in reality. For now, we wait and watch with interest.
If you Gautengers pull this off and halt the e-tolls, you will be heroes in the eyes of us Capetonians.