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Cosatu e-toll protest gains support

Support grew on Tuesday for a Cosatu-led protest against e-tolling and labour brokers, with labour unions and political parties pledging to join the marches planned throughout the country.

“It is time that the scourge of labour brokering be eradicated permanently from our society,” SA Clothing and Textile Workers' Union spokesman Andre Kriel said in a statement.

A toll gate on the N1 North just before the Beyers Naude offramp in Gauteng. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko. Credit: Independent Newspapers

The Black Sash was concerned about the impact of the tolling system on the poor and those with temporary jobs, said spokeswoman Sarah Nicklin.

“The combination of the proposed toll fees and spiralling increases in the price of food, fuel, electricity, transport costs and high interest rates heighten the anxiety of many people who are struggling to survive,” she said.

Trade union Solidarity appealed to those who were unable to take part in the Congress of SA Trade Unions' (Cosatu) 34 planned marches to protest against e-tolling in other ways.

Solidarity deputy general secretary Dirk Hermann encouraged motorists to hoot every time they drove through a highway tollgate between Wednesday and Friday.

He said the public could also demonstrate dissatisfaction by adding '#toet' before protest messages on social media.

Hermann asked people to sms the word “toot” to 34388 to make donations to a planned legal challenge against e-tolling by AfriForum.

The Congress of the People Youth Movement's spokesman Bongani Mahlangu urged members to join the protest against “the ill-conceived and extremely expensive toll system”.

The Pan Africanist Congress said its members and Gauteng residents should join the Johannesburg march.

“The R5 billion subsidy government has promised actually comes from the same taxpayers. It therefore means little,” said spokesman Mudini Maivha.

The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) said taxi services would run as normal because it had decided not to participate in the strike.

“Santaco Gauteng... held a meeting yesterday where the planned e-toll strike matter was raised and we agreed there was no basis for the taxi industry to form part of the strike,” said deputy chairman Bafana Magagula.

The SA Democratic Nurses' Union said it encouraged participation in the protests because it had “declared war” on labour broking.

The Treatment Action Campaign said it had mobilised its members countrywide to join the marches, and supported Cosatu's calls for improved service delivery and an end to corruption.

Limpopo police were ready to ensure marches in the province were conducted peacefully, said Lt-Col Mohale Ramatseba.

Police helicopters, dog units, public order police and crime prevention teams would be deployed in Polokwane and throughout the province.

The police would work with march organisers to ensure the protest went off without incident.

Earlier on Tuesday, Cosatu retracted its invitation to the Democratic Alliance to participate in Wednesday's marches.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said members of all parties were welcome to join, but “we never invited any party leaders”.

DA leader Helen Zille said the party did not support Cosatu's call to ban labour brokers, and was opposed to the impact the protest could have on schooling.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said strike action was being used sparingly as it was a huge sacrifice for workers to lose a day's wages.

Teachers were also expected to participate in the strike.

Vavi said that if the government went ahead with e-tolling on Gauteng freeways after the strike, Cosatu would organise more strikes or other “creative ways” to halt the system.

Wednesday's protests were an indication that Cosatu was willing to negotiate with the government on the issues of e-tolling and labour broking, Vavi said.

“We are going to be listening very carefully in terms of what government is going to be saying.... We are forcing government back to the negotiating table we are saying we remain open to talks, even at this moment,” he said.

Vavi announced that the African National Congress Youth League, including its suspended president Julius Malema, would join the strike.

The department of basic education said that Wednesday was a normal school day and that teachers and pupils were expected to arrive for school as usual.

Eskom spokeswoman Hilary Joffe said the strike was not expected to affect electricity provision, but the situation would be monitored.

“The section of the Labour Relations Act that allows for this (industrial action) is only for workers not involved in essential services,” she said. - Sapa

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