Reports of intimidation ahead of strike
Johannesburg - Riot police had to be summoned to the Natalspruit Hospital, east of Johannesburg on Wednesday as a group of people tried to stop schoolchildren boarding their minibus taxis to school ahead of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) anti-tolling and labour broker protest.
"There were people who were trying to prevent scholar vehicle transport," said Ekurhuleni metro police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wilfred Kgasago.
But when public order police arrived the group disappeared, said Kgasago.
The children proceeded to school unhindered and nobody was injured.
"There were no more reports of intimidation," he said.
Meanwhile, another group of people had tried to stop people from entering the Kempton Park station but this also passed and groups were allowed to board the trains to Johannesburg to join the swelling ranks of protesters in the city.
Johannesburg metro police spokeswoman Superintendent Edna Mamonyane said nothing worrying had happened while protesters arrived at Beyers Naude gardens for the march across the city.
Cosatu expected at least 100 000 people to take part in 32 marches across the country with the major event taking place in Johannesburg's central business district.
The protest over the introduction of tolls on the main Pretoria/Johannesburg route and Johannesburg ring road from April 30 was going ahead in spite of Finance Minister Pravhin Gordhan's Budget allocation of R5.8bn in the 2011/12 budget towards making fees lower.
Drivers of ordinary vehicles would pay 30 cents a kilometre, with a monthly cap of R550 for frequent users.
However, Cosatu believed this was equivalent to privatising public roads, at great cost to the working class.
He told Talk Radio 702 ahead of the Johannesburg march that the fees would perpetuate the exclusion of the most marginalised of society, while the rich would happily pay the fees to travel on the roads.
There was no adequate public transport system and the government was making users pay for things it should be providing.
The trade union federation, which represents around two million employees is also totally opposed to labour brokers.
Minibus taxis have been exempt from paying the toll fee but SA National Taxi Organisation general secretary Philip Taaibosch said they have made it clear that drivers should not be penalised if they decide to participate in their personal capacity.
Bus services in Johannesburg had already been severely affected by early Wednesday morning, a Metrobus spokesperson said.
"There were quite a few buses operating in Roodepoort but then there were areas that had no operating buses," Esther Dreyer said.
Metrobus urged commuters to find other means of transport.
The SA Municipal Workers Union vowed to have every municipal worker take part in the protest.
"Fellow South Africans from all walks of life are encouraged to participate in the mass awakening that would unite the working class under one banner."
"We must force the Government and the ruling party the African National Congress to scrap the exorbitant e-Tolling system and ban modern day slavery."
City of Johannesburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said it was too early to say how many people didn't show up for work.
"We put in a process of an attendance register for all our departments where employees are expected to sign in and sign out this afternoon. So we should have a clear indication later this afternoon," said Tugwana
Tshwane Municipality spokesperson Pieter de Necker said the municipality had not been affected.
"We have not had any serious disruptions but a head count is being done. As far as we are concerned everything is peaceful," De Necker said.
The African People's Convention, called the tolls "nothing but robbery" which should be opposed.
Dlangezwa Mvelase spokesperson of the recently formed National Civic Forum said: "We fully support the protest. We are speaking to all our communities to go and support the protest led by Cosatu.
They would also encourage a boycott of anything associated with the tolls, including buying e-tags.
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