Why is ANC so silent on e-tolling?

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Ihsaan Haffejee

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said yesterday they felt betrayed by the ANC for its silence on the controversial e-tolling issue.

Vavi slammed the ruling party in Gauteng, saying “we were one” on the issue before the local government elections last year, but the party had changed their tune afterwards.

“We feel betrayed by the Gauteng ANC’s silence on this e-tolling issue. Before the local government elections we were one on this. Whether this will change our voting patterns is something that is debated at every Cosatu meeting,” said Vavi.

He said they had taken their constituency in Gauteng for granted as the project had been scrapped immediately when the DA opposed it in the Western Cape.

“It means they just said those ones (in Gauteng) will pay and keep on paying but they will remain supporting us,” said Vavi.

He was speaking ahead of today’s planned mass action that will see marches across all the country’s nine provinces.

The marches are expected to attract thousands of people enraged about the e-tolling, which government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said last week would go ahead regardless of opposition from motorists and civil society.

The march would also call for the total ban of labour brokers, which Cosatu believes are exploiting workers by selling their labour cheaply.

His criticism of the ANC in Gauteng comes hot on the heels of the same kind of criticism from Cosatu’s alliance partner, the SACP, which claimed the e-tolling project had been rushed for provincial political gains.

Addressing the National Press Club at its business breakfast in Pretoria, Vavi described the e-tolling project as part of a capitalist assault on the country’s working class and the poor.

He warned there was a plan to make the e-tolling systems on Gauteng roads unworkable, but would not reveal what this plan was.

He said the government had not been honest about the e-tolling project and that the secrecy around the contract signed with the private toll operators meant people would pay indefinitely.

He further warned that if people proceeded to pay for the e-tolling, it would soon spread to other provinces, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

According to Vavi, the e-tolls rates would further reduce the standard of living of the working class as it came at a time when other commodities were also on the rise.

“We are told that Eskom is increasing electricity by 25 percent, and Eskom has told us that the six big metros add between 14 percent and 110 percent on top of Eskom’s own 25 percent.

“The fuel price is also going up and we are now moving towards paying above R11 a litre for fuel. Now there are e-tolls that have to be paid.

“It is inevitable that the truck companies will pass these costs on to the farmers who will then pass them on to the consumers.

“Why then are we paying taxes? And why do we go to vote every five years to elect the best government that will build good roads for us? Why don’t we just call in the private companies to do it for us?” he asked.

Vavi also spoke out against labour brokers, saying their work was tantamount to “trading in human beings” as they simply exploited workers.

“Labour brokers are the main drivers of exploitation in South Africa. Our constitution allows businesses to trade but it does not allow them to trade in humans.

“They exploit the fact that employers are desperate to cut corners in terms of paying workers what they are worth,” said Vavi.

Figures showed that more than 900 000 workers in South Africa were employed through labour brokers, a situation which meant their labour was negotiated by the labour brokers who made money from selling their labour “for peanuts”.

Vavi urged all workers, including teachers, to ensure their children would be kept safe and busy at home while they joined the march.

Vavi confirmed that embattled ANCYL president Julius Malema had confirmed that he would be leading an ANCYL delegation at the march.

Meanwhile, the Department of Basic Education yesterday urged provinces to assess the situation and to make decisions accordingly in terms of how schooling would be affected by the mass action.

A spokesman said today remained a normal school day and urged all pupils and teachers to report to school as normal. -Pretoria News


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