Johannesburg - A burning wheelchair in front of the Rivonia e-toll customer service centre captured the protesters’ message: “e-tolls has paralysed us”.
About a dozen wheelchair-bound Gauteng residents, mostly members of the QuadPara Association of South Africa (Qasa), gathered at the centre on Tuesday to protest against the fact that the disabled were not exempt from the tolls.
Qasa chief executive Ari Seirlis said the government and the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) had allegedly promised the disabled exemption from the e-tolls, but had never implemented this promise as legislation.
Tuesday saw the group arriving at the centre to apply for tags that would ensure they wouldn’t be charged for using the freeways.
But when the group entered the office surrounded by media, cameramen were forced to leave the centre by security guards.
It was then that manager Ali Ndou explained to the crowd that there was no exemption for any drivers outside of those associated with public transport.
“We’ve been burnt by Sanral… We (Qasa) had tried to consult with them even as late as last week, and we have still not had a response,” said Seirlis.
The crowd then switched from trying to register their e-tags to a full-blown protest as they revealed their protest signs and shouted outside the centre that “e-tolls tax the poorest of the poor” and “e-tolls will paralyse us”.
In a final act of defiance, the group then took a wheelchair, doused it in petrol and set it alight.
But despite the flames getting dangerously close to the centre’s lawn and the stench of burning plastic, the security personnel and management remained inside the centre, seemingly ignoring the protest.