HumanIPO has reported extensively on the issue of e-tolling, from the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) legal battles to the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) protest marches against the system in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Last week, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition political party, suggested a referendum be implemented to democratically allow the people, who will be directly affected by the e-tolling system, to vote for or against it.
This was backed by a constitutional law expert, maintaining the constitution provides for a referendum.
Last month the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said they were “infuriated” by the government’s decision to implement e-tolling and urged the government to investigate environmentally and cost effective alternatives to it.
The December 2012 motorcade protest by Cosatu in Johannesburg reportedly gathered so much support that it almost came to a standstill. It may have been the first time in South Africa’s history where South Africans from all walks of life were behind Cosatu, encouraging the protest against e-tolling.
The DA and Cosatu found themselves in agreement with each other, which is so rare it may have never occurred before in South Africa’s democratic history.
Taking all of the stances by organisations, parties and the general public opinion on e-tolls, it would seem none but the African National Congress (ANC) have any support for e-tolling. The ANC is Gauteng’s provincial government.
Nomvula Mokonyane, Gauteng Premier and ANC member, failed to make mention of the e-tolling system in her State of the Province address, her excuse being it is no longer an issue because “we are going ahead with e-tolling as government”, despite the presence of Cosatu actively campaigning against it at the Gauteng provincial legislature building.
Mokonyane stating it is not an issue anymore because government is going ahead with e-tolling is exactly the issue, and she should have addressed it. If she had done so she might have dodged the media questioning her about it after her speech yesterday.
Ben Martins, Transport Minister and ANC member, said the e-tolling system would be fully active by the end of March, once parliamentary processes are finalised.
He believes the taxpayer should fork out more than they already pay for the upgrading of Gauteng’s freeways. The South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) supports this sentiment.
The ANC has previously denied claims it is set to profit from the e-tolling system.
Whether or not this is the case, the real issue is the fact that government is promoting an unwillingness to listen to the people who elected them into power.
Surely ignoring the protests by OUTA, DA, Cosatu, IFP and the citizens of Gauteng at large and not heeding a call for a referendum to properly consult the people displays a level of arrogance on the part of the government.
Furthermore, the ANC-led government in Gauteng is also defying a direct ally - Cosatu. The ANC and Cosatu as well as the South African Communist Party (SACP) have been in a tripartite alliance since 1994.
The SACP has been surprisingly quiet on the issue, except for an article published on their website last year titled: “The E-Tolls, Strange Bedfellows (referring to the DA and Cosatu) and Ideological Confusions...”
It is surprising that the SACP has not been as active as Cosatu since the e-tolling system is capitalistic in nature and will negatively affect the workers they represent.
The motorcade protests by Cosatu have been welcomed by the South African community at large, but should the e-tolling systems indeed be fully implemented by the end of March as per the government’s decision, then perhaps Cosatu should put its money where its mouth is and break the tripartite alliance because this would serve as a more severe protest message than the motorcade protests could ever achieve.