Transport Minister Dipuo Peters’ announcement that e-tolling of Gauteng’s highways will begin soon was met with anger and sadness on Wednesday.
“[Cosatu] has noted with anger the announcement that e-tolls will be implemented on Gauteng highways on December 3,” spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement.
The Democratic Alliance said it was “a sad day” for Gauteng and the country that government had ignored public opposition to the tolling.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) chairman Wayne Duvenage said the e-tolling system was doomed to failure. It was inefficient, irrational, and would enrich overseas companies at the expense of motorists.
Outa believed the most equitable way to pay for the maintenance of the highways would be through a fuel levy.
“We call on society to exercise moral courage and resist the system on the basis that there are far too many things wrong with e-tolling. The system will fail,” he said.
A legal challenge to e-tolling by Outa was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Appeal last month. Outa announced on October 18 it did not have money to continue the legal fight against e-tolling. Outa’s argument remained that the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and government did not conduct a proper public participation process.
Craven said the Congress of SA Trade unions would not give up its fight against e-tolling.
“[Cosatu] reaffirms its continued total opposition to this attempt to privatise our public roads and force us to pay to travel on roads we have already paid for though taxes and the fuel levy.”
He said motorists should refuse to buy e-tags, as there was “absolutely no legal obligation” to do so.
Cosatu has been a fervent opponent of e-tolling and held several “drive-slow” campaigns and marches to protest against the introduction of the tolls.
DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said in a statement most Gauteng residents would eventually feel the impact of the tolls.
“Residents who are not regular road users will feel the pinch through increased food and living expenses.”
He said e-tolling would likely be extended to the N14 Krugersdorp Highway, sections of the M1, the N14 to Pretoria, N3 to Heidelberg, the R59, and sections of the N12.
“I encourage you to take this frustration to the ballot box next year and vote out the government that has enforced this system on an unwilling province.”
Earlier this month, the DA and the Freedom Front Plus announced they would each bring high court applications to fight the constitutionality of the e-toll bill President Jacob Zuma signed in September.
They argue that e-tolling will affect the competency of provincial government and municipalities by affecting urban planning, public transport, and traffic regulations.
Peters said in Pretoria on Wednesday that electronic tolling would contribute to the fight against licence plate cloning and reduce congestion.
She said government had made several concessions to minimise the financial burden on road users paying for the e-tolled road network.
“Sanral should be allowed to start collecting toll fees in order to begin to repay the debt incurred when the roads were upgraded,” she told reporters in Pretoria.
“We cannot afford to continue to expose Sanral’s portfolio to any further financial risks…”
Peters encouraged the public to buy e-tags because without them motorists would not benefit from discounts.