Anti-tolling marches under way

2012-11-30 12:31
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Johannesburg - Cosatu's protest marches against e-tolling started simultaneously in Johannesburg and Pretoria shortly after 11:00 on Friday.

In Johannesburg, protesters whistled, danced, and sang Cosatu songs as they marched down Bree Street, taking up about half a block in the city's CBD.

Cosatu chairperson in Gauteng, Phutas Tseki, said their first stop would be the department of local government and housing.

In addition to showing their rejection of plans to toll freeways in Gauteng, Cosatu is also objecting to the recent housing demolitions in the province.

"The demolition of houses in Lenasia, of hostels in Mamelodi, and of shacks in Boipatong must be stopped," said Tseki.

Four memorandums were expected to be delivered in Johannesburg and Pretoria on Friday to the housing, finance, and transport departments in both cities.

No protest culture

The turnout in Johannesburg was lower than expected, but Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven defended this, saying support would build later and that Cosatu was reaching out to civil society for support.

He added that although businesses also opposed tolling plans, they did not have a protest culture.

In Pretoria, police, some on bicycles, moved among the marshals keeping a close watch on groups of people as they headed from Sophie de Bruyn Street onto Madiba Street.

The crowd began singing and dancing, as a truck leading the march played music via loud-speakers.

A placard on the windscreen of the truck read: "Don't register with Sanral, Don't buy e-tags", referring to the SA National Roads Agency Limited, which wants to use an electronic tagging system to charge for use of the roads.

Other posters read: "Gauntlett, the dogs have come out to play. No to tolls", "Info bill + e-toll = no freedom".

Police on guard

During this week's court challenge to the government tolling plans, advocate Jeremy Gauntlett representing the National Treasury, said "civil society is a watchdog, but it must get out of the kennel and bark" - in a submission that the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance's application to have tolls scrapped was a "sham".

Cosatu's provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile joined the Pretoria march, and walked with other leaders from the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).

At 11:40 they arrived at the Treasury in Pretoria, where policemen in riot gear were standing in front of the gates.

Earlier on Friday protesters criticised government's plans.

Lucas Kobe, a Congress of SA Trade Unions shop steward, said although he did not have a car, he was against e-tolling because it would have a negative impact on citizens.

"We are earning little salaries as it is and cannot afford to buy most of our needs," he said.

No proper consultation

"If the project is implemented, it would lead to an increase in taxi fares and food."

Dolph Monareng, a shop steward of the National Union of Mineworkers, addressed the crowd of protesters in Pretoria before the march, and asked foreigners to also join in.

"Comrades, this is not an ANC event, this is not a Cosatu event. This is an event for all South Africans," he said.

"Even if you are not South African, this e-toll system will affect you. That is why we are saying, even if you're our brother from other African countries, come and join us."

He told journalists government did not do "proper consultation" before rolling out the contentious system.

Tearing down the gantries

Cosatu's Tshwane chairperson Johannes Clouw said they would not destroy the toll gantries, already evident on the highways, but would "take them down nicely and give them to Sanral [SA National Roads Agency Limited]".

This was planned for 6 December, when a second march was scheduled, he said.

Earlier this week, Dumisani Dakile, provincial secretary for the Congress of SA Trade Unions, said the federation's members would demolish the toll gantries if government did not scrap the system, but later said that what he meant was that government officials who tore down houses in Lenasia should also tear down the gantries.

The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday reserved judgment on the future of the e-tolling system, following a challenge by Outa.

Read more on:    cosatu  |  outa  |  sanral  |  johannesburg  |  tolls  |  transport

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