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While Cabinet's approval of toll tariffs on the Gauteng freeway improvement project (GFIP) infuriated most organisations, the ANC on Friday welcomed Cabinet's “bold” move.
“The ANC commends the bold and progressive step by Cabinet for endorsing the revised toll tariffs on the GFIP, which will see all taxis and buses being entirely exempted,” spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
This would also result in motorists, motorcyclists, and truck drivers paying much reduced toll fees, he said.
“We are equally impressed that the department of transport has taken on board and listened to the views and concerns of the public, something that has led to the revised toll fee structure.”
The ANC had always maintained that the GFIP should not be done at the expense of the public or impact negatively on the cost of doing business in Gauteng or anywhere else in South Africa.
“We agree with the assertion that the improvement of our road infrastructure should not be a burden to those it is supposed to benefit Ä the road users.
“We urge all South Africans to welcome these revised tariffs, particularly the exemption of public transport from the tariff structure,” Mthembu said.
Earlier on Friday, the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) called on the working class and the poor to stand up against Gauteng tolling because it “is an elite-driven, money-making scheme”.
“There is no compelling reason why the working class had to be overburdened by toll fees when they are still fighting for decent living wage,” national spokeswoman Mamokgethi Molopyane said.
“The department of transport has failed to understand the needs of the South African public.
“We call on the working class and poor to unite and stand side by side in fighting this e-tolling monster. Through our marches, demonstrations, and pickets we will bring this behemoth to its knees,” she said.
She said motorists would end up with empty pockets and it made no sense to be tolled on something residents were already taxed on.
Cabinet approved reduced toll tariffs for the GFIP phase A1, on Wednesday.
Motorcycles would pay 24 cents a kilometre, light motor vehicles 40 cents, medium vehicles R1, and “longer” vehicles R2, Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin told reporters on Thursday.
Qualifying commuter taxis and buses would be exempted entirely.
In addition to the 31 percent e-tag discount, other discounts applicable would be a time of day discount available to all vehicles, and a frequent user discount for motorcycles and light motor vehicles fitted with an e-tag.
Cabinet had agreed that Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele should give effect to the approval in terms of the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and National Roads Act.
Civil rights group AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said motorists were being reduced to cash cows.
“It is outrageous that the burden to finance the toll roads now lies with ordinary motorists, considering that taxis and buses are completely exempted from toll fees,” Kriel said in a statement.
The situation had worsened since motorists would not be able to claim back their toll expenses from taxable income, unlike transport companies and taxis who would be able to, he said..
“Despite income tax, fuel levies, vehicle licences, and toll fees which motorists have to pay, they will also be expected to pay VAT on toll fees.
“If tax was an investment, it would have been a poor investment, since a large group of tax payers enjoy little - if any advantage from their tax money,” Kriel said.
AfriForum would ask its legal team to investigate the possibility of taking legal action against the unfair way ordinary motorists were being discriminated against, he said.
The Young Communist League said it was disgusted over the approved tariffs and asked government to scrap the project entirely.
The league would also mobilise its membership and communities if their call was not heeded, national spokesman Mafika Mndebele said. -