Cape Town – It’s a telling illustration of the implacable opposition most Capetonians feel towards toll roads in general and e-tolling in particular that not even an icy north-west wind and the threat of rain could keep several hundred local riders from turning out for the seventh Bikers Against e-Tolls protest ride at the weekend.
Tightly marshalled into one cohesive group, white BAT flags bravely flying, they rode a new route from the Bellville Velodrome to the Southern Suburbs, bringing home the message to every road user along the way that if we don’t do something about it now, e-tolling will become a reality throughout South Africa – and that includes Cape Town.
But where were the cops?
Conspicuous by their absence were the SAPS, Cape Town Metro Police and Traffic Services. All the necessary forms had been filled in, letters written and permits received, so there is no doubt that the authorities knew all about the new route, and the date and time of the ride - but not a single uniform was to be seen.
Perhaps, after six incident-free BAT protest rides, the authorities had simply decided that the Bikers Against E-Tolls riders were mature and responsible enough to be left to their own devices, that there would be no rioting, no scatological fallout and no mass mischief.
While this is a stunning tribute to convenor Amanda Bruwer and BAT Cape Town, there were voices raised that the riders were wasting their time, that a protest without violence would have no effect on the general population, that BAT protest rides should focus on blocking major roads, stopping traffic and jolting the motoring public out of its apathy.
While BAT groups all over South Africa are proud of their law-abiding image, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify, they say, in the face of continued deafening silence from Sanral.