Last week, it emerged that President Jacob Zuma, despite numerous protests by opposition political parties and a host of other organisations, had gone ahead and effectively signed the e-toll system into law. Even the ANC Youth League, which seemed to support decisions made by the mother body in the aftermath of the expulsion of Julius Malema, was not impressed with this decision by the president of the ruling party.
Analysts have spoken out about how the e-toll system will negatively affect the poorest citizens more than anyone else. In a country where service delivery protests and wage strikes are a common occurrence, it makes sense that the majority of Gauteng residents strongly oppose e-tolls. In fact, many are outraged that President Zuma proceeded with implementing the e-tolls even though there is still an on-going appeal into the matter. The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance voiced their appeal against the implementation of e-tolls in court and that decision is still pending.
One thing is certain; the presidency should brace itself for even more protests. On Monday, at a media briefing in Braamfontein, the Economic Freedom Fighters called on all members of their organisation to be aware of planned protest marches. The Gauteng spokesperson for the EFF, Patrick Sindane urged members of the public who oppose e-tolls, regardless of political affiliations, to support initiatives against e-tolls.
The Democratic Alliance is unforgiving. DA spokesperson Mmusi Maimane had this to say: “Our president chose to make this announcement far away from the people of this province (Gauteng). It was an act of cowardice for which we cannot forgive him.” President Zuma was in New York on state business when the announcement was made. Maimane offered that he had “yet to meet anybody who supports e-tolling”.
Last month, The Public News Hub reported on a mass bike ride organised by Bikers Against Tolls. Not only is this national group of motorcyclists opposed to the upcoming e-tolls, they also stand against the current tolling system on national highways. The current system sees those riding motorcycles pay as much as drivers of large vehicles with towing abilities at toll points. The plight of the bikers inspired the formation of another protest group. James Sleigh, the founder of Bikers Against Tolls 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.” These organisations are among many who vowed to continue their protests until they were heard.
Media reports have stated that the e-tolling system was manufactured by Austrian company Kapsch TrafficCom. Kapsch TrafficCom will make more than R 660 million for eight years from e-toll revenue in Gauteng alone. The DA insists that there was never a need for e-tolls. Mmusi Maimane explained: “We have said before, and today I say again, that the upgrade to Gauteng’s freeways could have been paid for through other means.” On the other hand, the presidency believes that there is no other way to improve and upgrade South Africa’s roads.
On Tuesday, the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters told reporters about her department’s concern for South Africans who still had to contend with gravel roads. She spoke at the Pretoria launch of Transport Month. She said: “Some in the rural areas have to walk long distances to access public transport. It is important for all of us to focus on the improvement of mobility and access in rural areas.” The country awaits the return of the president who will announce the date of implementation for the intensely opposed e-tolling system in Gauteng.