Johannesburg - Government reiterated its call for a peaceful protest against e-tolling by the Congress of SA Trade Unions in Johannesburg and Pretoria on Friday.
“Government respects the rights of any organised formation or individuals to engage in public demonstration.” Protests should be within the law, it said.
“Government will not tolerate destruction of property or disregard for the effort that goes into making South Africa a better place. Government calls on those who will be taking part in the planned march to act within the law.”
Protesters started arriving at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Johannesburg ahead of the march to show their rejection of the plans to make motorists pay to use highways around the two cities.
In Johannesburg a few early arrivals danced to music being played from a sound system on a flat-bed truck while shop stewards from the union federation gathered for last minute meetings.
Those approached for their opinion on the issue said they had “no mandate” to speak to the press and so would not comment.
Marchers there are expected to start gathering from around 9.30am and traffic officials have warned of road closures.
Metro police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said the marchers were expected to proceed to Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane's office in Simmonds Street, the transport department in Pritchard Street, and the housing department in Sauer Street, to hand over memorandums.
A similar march is set for Tshwane. Workers will gather at the corner of Sophie de Bruyn and Johannes Ramokhoase streets in Pretoria.
The group will go to the transport and finance departments to hand over memorandums against e-tolling in Gauteng, City of Tshwane spokesman Console Tleane said.
The protest is expected to finish at the City Hall there around 2pm.
The Opposition for Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) also called on all participants in the protest marches to refrain from violence and damage to property.
“Outa... trusts these will be conducted in a most peaceful manner to demonstrate society's respect for property rights and the law,” said Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage.
“We share BUSA's concerns and call on all participating in protest action to be responsible and refrain from any violence and damage to property,” said Duvenage, referring to a similar call by Business Unity SA.
The High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday reserved judgment on the future of the e-tolling system following a challenge by Outa.
Like Outa, Cosatu wants e-tolls scrapped, saying workers cannot afford it and government must prioritise efficient affordable public transport.
Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi called on other provinces to join the opposition to Gauteng tolls.
Earlier this week, Cosatu provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile threatened that the union federation's members would demolish the toll gantries if the government did not scrap the system.
Speaking to EyeWitness News on Thursday morning, Dakile, however, said what he had meant was that government officials who tore down houses in Lenasia should also tear down the gantries.
Vavi said Friday's protest was just the beginning, with another protest planned for December 6. - Sapa