Labour united in rejecting e-tolls

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IOL mot pic aug28 E-toll Panel 1 inlsa Sanral represesentative John Ngcebetsha under fire during the first day of submissions to the Gauteng e-toll panel in Midrand. Picture: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - South Africa’s labour federations have come out in unison, decrying the e-tolling system and warning Gauteng’s e-toll panel to listen to the voices of the people as this issue was a time-bomb.

The National Council of Trade Unions, Cosatu and the Federation of Unions of South Africa made presentations on the first day of the panel’s hearing into the road-payment scheme.

Panellists on behalf of Gauteng premier David Makhura included Lauretta Teffo, Nalina Naicker, Bridget Ssamula, Dr Vuyo Mahlati, John Ngcebetsha, Trish Hanekom and chairman Muxe Nkondo.

Hanekom said they had spoken to municipalities on the impact of e-tolls on commuters.

She said the panel had to give Makhura a report and findings at the end of November.

Nactu representative Thulani Khumalo, the federation’s head of research, policy and education, said that in their view, e-tolls should be scrapped. He said other funding mechanisms needed to be found, public transport needed to be improved and this debate needed to be brought to Nedlac for intensive consultation.

Khumalo said the fuel levy had contributed R40 billion to the national budget in the past five years and this would have covered the cost of improving the roads.

He also raised concerns about the rising costs of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which he said had risen from R7 billion to R20 billion.

Khumalo said this was partly due to collusion by the construction industry.

The corruption theme was also picked by Cosatu’s Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile, who described e-tolling as the “most immoral project this country has undertaken after the arms deal”.

He said the construction cartel had admitted wrongdoing.

“They came out with this corruption publicly, but in this country, unless you are in government, you will not suffer consequences,” he said.

Dakile warned that if the voices of the people were not heard, there would be consequences for the ANC.

“It doesn’t help to be like an ostrich and stick your head in the sand..

“This is a ticking time-bomb.”

“The people of Gauteng are angry. They do not want this thing. If the people are not listened to, the premier in four years will be governing with opposition parties.”

Dakile added there was no public transport in South Africa, but rather “commuter transport”. The panel needed to look at what workers had to go through every day, inviting them to travel in a train, go to taxi ranks and travel in Putco buses. He also said workers were being raped at night while using these transport systems.

Dakile added that even though taxi associations were supposed to be exempt, taxi operators were receiving e-toll bills.

The unions also spoke about the tenders given to a foreign company to administer the system and the billions that have to be paid for this.

“At an ideological level, this thing amounts to privatisation, and privatisation to a foreign company.”

From figures given to them by Sanral, the construction of the roads cost about R3 billion a year, and their analysis showed an additional 14 cents on the fuel levy would pay for this.

Fedusa’s presenter, Junior Gys, kept the federation’s argument short. He said e-tolling should never have been implemented, the fuel levy should have been used to pay for roads and people who had paid should be refunded.

Business submissions are to be made today and tomorrow.

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