Last month, The Public News Hub reported that SANRAL would spend R 85 million on e-toll advertising and campaigns this year. With such an exorbitant figure set aside for promoting the e-tolling system, many would expect that by now, SANRAL would have gained more favour on this e-tolling venture. If anything, it seems the protests are becoming more intense and vigorous in their opposition of the e-tolls.
Among some of the protests that SANRAL has to contend with is the upcoming national mass protest bike ride by Bikers Against Tolls (B.A.T.) on Saturday 14 September. Bikers from all the country will depart from city centres “to protest the impending and flawed E-toll system and unfair tolling of motorcycles on the national highways”.
Bikers Against Tolls are staunch supporters of COSATU and OUTA in their efforts to prevent the introduction of e-tolls. Also, bikers see no reason why their smaller bikes should be charged the same toll fee as larger vehicles towing a caravan. Members of the public and the Democratic Alliance continue to support the bikers whenever they stage a protest. James Sleigh, one of the founders of Bikers Against Tolls, said: “We have had support from the DA in the Eastern and Western Cape. The DA joined in on the last protest ride in Cape Town by bringing in their campaign cars and flags etc.”
Sleigh explained that the authorities have refused to make adjustments in the current tolling system to accommodate smaller motorcycles and charge a proportionate toll fee. According to Sleigh: “Their opinion is that it’s not worth their effort and disputes the validity of charging by the weight of the vehicle. Due to the smaller number of motorcycles passing through the Toll gates, they claim would not warrant changing the fees, or providing a dedicated lane for bikes.”
SANRAL once responded to the discrepancies in toll charges noted by B.A.T. by saying: “If SANRAL were to differentiate between motorcycles and other light vehicles on the basis of their mass and the number of wheels on the vehicles only, the organisation could save motorcyclists no more than these few cents.” It appears that bikers are very interested in saving these “few cents”.
James Sleigh confirmed that the motorcycle fraternity does not endorse violence and unrest during protests. He added: “Past B.A.T. protest rides have proved that, and the JMPD; Cape Town; PE and Ekurhuleni Metro have endorsed our rides due to the discipline and behaviour displayed by the bikers on previous rides.”
Mass protest bike rides such as the one planned for Saturday are not exclusively for motorcyclists. Bikers often ride for causes which affect people from all walks of life and not only bikers. In return, members of the public often join mass bike rides and follow in their vehicles or other means of transport. Referring to the tolls, Sleigh said: “It is common knowledge that many other members of the public who are not bikers are also affected…there is a new group formation Cars Against Tolls (C.A.T.) which has come into fruition, and they will be participating in the protest with us.” During mass bike rides, vehicles travel behind the motorcycle formation.
Together with COSATU, OUTA, several political parties and other organisations, B.A.T. are committed to active protests in the hope that it will sway the powers that be to do away with e-tolls and adjust the tolling system on national highways. On the other hand, SANRAL has R 85 million to spare to convince this large group of unwavering protesters that e-tolls will be of great benefit to all.