South Africa News

Scrap e-tolls or we disrupt local elections – Cosatu’s ultimatum to Fikile Mbalula

Cosatu in Gauteng has issued an ultimatum to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to make an announcement soon on the scrapping of e-tolls in the province.

Cosatu on Monday warned that it would be left with no option but to protest on the day of the local government elections, scheduled for 27 October, if the announcement is not made before the end of September.

“We call all motorists in Gauteng to continue to support our campaign and not pay their so-called e-tolls accounts. In case Minister Mbalula is not going to make an announcement favorable to our demands by the end of September, Cosatu in Gauteng will be left with no option but to protest on election day,” said Amos Monyela, Cosatu’s Gauteng chairperson, in a statement.

The trade union federation was reacting to comments made by the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga in a recent media interview.

Chikunga told eNCA at the weekend that Gauteng motorists would have to continue paying for the controversial scheme, despite the widespread rejection of e-tolls. She also compared the e-tolls to taxes levied on motorists in the 1700s to develop the country’s road infrastructure.

“[If] you use the road that is tolled, you pay for it. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay for it. It’s as simple as that,” Chikunga said.

‘Ill-informed utterances’
Monyela said they were disappointed by the “ill-informed utterances” Chikunga made on the e-tolls, saying she had exposed her limited understanding of the reasons behind the rejection of the road user-payer system.

“Her articulation on the history of tax for roads in South Africa reflects a leading figure in the government who uses apartheid methods to suffocate citizens for the benefit of monopoly capital,” Monyela said.

“Her example of toll gates is also a reflection of a poor understanding of the geography of Gauteng. The roads that are tolled in Gauteng (N3, N12, N1, M1, and R21) are used by the citizens of Gauteng to go to and from work, visit families and friends daily, and economic hardship they brought to motorists hence they are rejected.

“The deputy minister should understand that much as this saga is easier to resolve through her ill-informed history, it is also easier to scrap the e-tolls than to put pressure on the already suffocating citizens through taxes.”

Motorists still wating for decision on e-tolls
The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (e-tolls) has been a bone of contention since it was introduced back in 2013.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had instructed Mbalula and Gauteng transport officials to come up with a solution to the scheme.

But there has been a back and forth between the Treasury and the transport department that has seen the government miss its own deadline on the announcement of the future of e-tolls.

Cosatu said it was not surprised by the “populist utterances” made by Chikunga because “we are accustomed to a government that is pro-business and anti-working class in all respect.”

“The Gauteng provincial government, President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Minister Fikile Mbalula promised that a solution for e-tolls will be found, as Cosatu in Gauteng we are waiting for Fikile Mbalula to make an announcement as he promised two years ago else there will be dire consequences for the governing party.

“The e-toll policy has failed, motorists are not paying even when the South African National Roads Agency is giving discounts. This is a true reflection of a boycott and the success of the Cosatu campaign to scrap the e-tolls,” Monyela said.

-The Citizen

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