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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

E-tolls: Aluta Continua!

13 December 2012

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is disappointed at the decision of Judge Louis Vorster in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria today, 13 December 2012, to dismiss the application to have the Gauteng e-tolling project banned, but this will not stop our campaign to have these tolls scrapped.

The fight against e-tolling, and for efficient, reliable, affordable and safe public transport for all the people, has always been primarily political rather than legal, and our campaign will now continue and be intensified.

We will take the fight to Parliament, which still has to pass the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill. This must not be steamrollered through but thoroughly discussed, so that we can finally have the public debate about the principle of e-tolling.

At the same time we shall also continue with the campaign of mass action which began with marches in Johannesburg and Pretoria on 30 November and the highly successful slow-drive campaign on the highways on 6 December 2012.

We shall also urge motorists not to register with Sanral or buy e-tags, and to make the system unworkable.

Public support keeps growing and we are certain that people power will ultimately convince the government to abandon a policy with is extremely unpopular, unfair and unworkable, for the following reasons:

1. Tolls will add to the burdens of the poor:

  • The poor will be forced to pay to travel on highways which were previously free of charge.
  • It will not just affect the people of Gauteng, as the government has now conceded that e-tolling will replace the existing toll-gates throughout the country.
  • It is not true that only the middle class use our highways. Many low income earners use private cars to travel to work, because our public transport system is so unreliable and they have no alternative.
  • Large numbers of private vehicle users simply do not have a single extra rand to spend.
  • Tolls will also put an indirect burden on the poor of the whole of South Africa, by adding to the cost of transporting goods and will have an immediate effect on food inflation.

2. Tolls will perpetuate exclusion:

  • ĎUser-paysí means that you cannot use the best roads if you cannot afford to pay. The logic is that those without the money to pay the tolls should be excluded from access to the best roads. They must find the potholed side roads, while those with the money glide along the highways in their fancy cars.
  • COSATU has consistently argued that taxation must be the main source of funding for road infrastructure. If additional revenues have to be raised by government, then this must be done through a progressive tax system, rather than tolls which take no account of the ability of the driversí to pay.

3. Public Transport is totally inadequate:

  • Government has now exempted registered public transport vehicles from the tolls, but very few buses and taxis actually use the tolled highways.
  • Public transport largely remains woefully inadequate both in quality and in the numbers of people it serves.
  • A third of our people use private cars to get to and from work. Not from choice but because our public transport system is expensive, unsafe and unreliable.

4. Tolls represent a form of Privatisation:

  • The introduction of a tolling system that brings the private sector to operate the tolled roads is a form of privatisation, the commodification of what ought to be an essential publicly funded public service.
  • Worst is that the contracts signed with the companies operating the tolls remain secret. All evidence indicates that the revenues from the tolls are going to be enormous and that the loans will be paid off quickly, leaving the private operator to milk the public.

5. Cost of collection:

  • Another reason for opposing the tolls is the cost of collection, which will consume a massive 17% of the money collected in tolls. This means that tolls are not only and unfair but also a grossly inefficient way of raising the money for road improvements.
  • Even if the government makes further cuts in levels of tolls, the collection costs will become an increasingly larger % of the amount collected.
  • A large portion of the revenue collected will ultimately find its way into the pockets of the toll operators. Trying to collect all this money from four million motorists will be impossible to manage and will become unworkable.

6. Income to be supplemented by fine collection:

  • In addition to the collection of toll fees, the operator will rely on the technology in the system to administer fines for non payment of toll fees. This back-door generation of income for profit from fines is in COSATUís view an abuse of the rule of law.

Aluta continua!

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 or Direct: +27 10 219-1339
Mobile: +27 82 821 7456
E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za