By: Dave Abrahams
Mainstream motorcyclists are not, by and large, political animals. Having been marginalised by society for so many years, most bikers have adopted the viewpoint that society’s woes are not their problem.
So it came as something of a surprise when close to 300 riders, clear across the spectrum of ages and backgrounds, on machines of all shapes and sizes, pitched up in Keizergracht in central Cape Town for Saturday’s Bikers Against e-Tolls protest run.
They ranged from a lady on a huge Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic tourer to a tall youngster on a 125cc Sachs Madass single - and just about everything in between - but nobody remarked on the irony.
TAKING IT SERIOUSLY
Behind the grins, the camaraderie and the sheer enjoyment of life that characterises bikers everywhere, this disparate group had been brought together by something they took seriously. And this was in Cape Town, seemingly least affected by the e-tolls debacle.
The Western Cape, after all, has at present but two toll roads: the Huguenot tunnel, which motorcyclists use only when the weather makes going ‘over the top’ unsafe (and then they can scarcely cavil at paying a premium for staying dry) and Chapman’s Peak Drive, where the arrangement is even simpler.
The riders pay the operator to use the road and the operator keeps rocks from falling on their heads.
BUT E-TOLLS ARE DIFFERENT
Never mind that the roads concerned have been already been paid for by every road user through a fuel levy; overlook the chaotic e-toll billing system, which is supposed to be electronic but is embarrassingly prone to all-too-human errors.
What gets up every biker’s tailpipe is that the vast majority of the money extracted from their pockets is used not to pay for the roads they ride on, but for the infrastructure that collects it and to line the pockets of the tenderpreneurs who supply it.
HUGE PROCESSION IN GAUTENG
And this was one of half a dozen similar protest rides held the same day in Port Elizabeth, King William’s Town, Bloemfontein, Durban and, of course, a huge procession of several thousand bikers and friends in Gauteng.
However, no infrastructure was damaged, no shops were looted, no memoranda of demands were handed over and no faeces were flung. The riders merely formed a procession several kilometres long and rode the highways most likely to be tolled, gaily flying flags expressing their determination never to pay for the privilege and then peacefully gathered in a sports-club car park in Bottelary Road to eat, drink and plan the next BAT run.
Hardly qualifies as activism, does it?
The real irony, however, is that Sanral has succeeded in uniting South Africans from across the rainbow as they haven’t been since the 1995 Rugby World Cup, even if it is in opposition.