The implementation of e-tolls on Gauteng’s highways met with mixed reaction on Tuesday when the controversial project started at midnight.
Inkatha Freedom Party Gauteng caucus leader Bonginkosi Dhlamini said the party cried for the 2.5 million road users in the province.
“It is sad that having a means of transport has now become a sin. Our people are being coerced and manipulated into paying for what is going to prove to be the most expensive blunder this leadership has ever done,” he said.
Dhlamini said the government’s attempt to put a positive spin on e-tolling shocked the party. It could not understand how the government could find it “logical to rob Gauteng citizens in broad daylight”. He said the government should stop the fuel levy and reduce the price of driver’s licences.
On Tuesday morning, traffic on the M1 highway from Soweto towards the Crown Interchange, which is not tolled and is close to the N1, was at a standstill, Johannesburg metro police said.
E-tolls are managed by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said the expected monthly e-toll tariffs had been exaggerated by critics.
“Expected monthly tariffs payable by light motor vehicles show that about 83 percent will pay not more than R100 a month, and 0.59 percent in the same class will reach the maximum of R450,” she told reporters at Sanral’s operations centre in Midrand.
“We are very disappointed that some of our citizens and leaders, including those who have in the past styled themselves as champions of the rule of the law, will not this time around accept the rule of the law,” Peters said.
The African National Congress called on motorists on Tuesday to register for e-tags to take advantage of the benefits — including discounted rates for frequent users.
“The ANC further calls for restraint from all members of society against mobilising for lawlessness as it relates to the e-tolls,” said ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu.
Mthembu said the ANC was grateful to the almost one million South Africans who had already bought their e-tags and who had committed themselves to working with the government to improve infrastructure.
“Infrastructure that all of us are in agreement has lightened the burden of travelling time and road safety, providing much needed time to motorists to do the things they would rather do than sitting in traffic.”
The Democratic Alliance took its protest to the skies with an aircraft towing an anti-e-tolls banner. The red and blue banner read: “Fight e-tolls, vote DA”. It circled Germiston, on the East Rand, before flying over all the newly-tolled routes.
DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said people needed to use their votes to fight e-tolling.
“If you oppose tolling, you must oppose the current government.”
He reiterated that motorists were under no obligation to register for e-tags and he said he would not register his own car.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) vowed to continue its fight against e-tolls and said the government had demonstrated its stubbornness and unwillingness to co-operate with workers.
“December 3 will represent the day on which our government has refused to listen to the views of the people and the poor,” Cosatu Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile said.
“It represents a clear demonstration of cadres who have been power-drunk and believe that they could do as they so wish,” Dakile told reporters in Johannesburg.
Sanral said users should alter the settings on their computers if they were unable to register for e-tolls on the website. It said there were problems in the morning, but that an investigation had revealed that people were struggling with typical problems experienced on websites with financial transaction options.
“By accepting the e-toll website as a secure site on the personal computer settings, it will allow the user to gain access to the e-toll website for registration,” Sanral said in a statement.
On Monday, an application by the Freedom Front Plus to stop e-tolling was struck from the roll by the High Court in Pretoria, for lack of urgency.
The DA said it intended taking its fight against e-tolling to the courts, and would argue that the legislation providing for e-tolls was incorrectly tagged as national, rather than provincial.