Johannesburg - The DA and Cosatu were in rare agreement yesterday in slamming what they said was the ANC’s intention to ram the e-toll bill through Parliament without sufficient public consultation.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the federation condemned “in the strongest possible manner” Parliament’s determination “to rush through” the bill - known as the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill - “at all costs”.
The committee was mandated to give the public an adequate hearing, yet it had “unashamedly” reduced the hearings to “a complete sham”, Vavi said.
The committee had advertised for public comments on the bill on November 4 and closed submissions on November 12, said Vavi.
On November 16, it had decided to hold public hearings a week early and brought them forward to November 20. But on November 19 it had decided the bill would be voted on and passed by the National Assembly tomorrow [Thursday], Vavi said.
“In other words, the committee decided one day before the public hearings that they will adopt the bill without any changes at the same meeting where they will receive public comments for the first time.
“They further decided that the National Assembly will then adopt the bill a mere two days later,” he said.
The parliamentary programme for Tuesday showed that public hearings had been scheduled for the same day and a debate on the bill had also been scheduled for Thursday - the last day the National Assembly can vote on legislation before rising for the end-of-year recess. This means the debate in the National Assembly was scheduled before public hearings began.
According to a memorandum attached to the bill, its provisions are essential to implement e-tolling and the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
DA transport spokesman Ian Ollis said only 18 public submissions on the bill had been made to Parliament’s oversight committee on transport, and just two entities had been allowed to appear on Tuesday.
ANC MPs were trying to get the bill through as soon as possible before the recess.
Cosatu and the SA Local Government Association were the only ones to present yesterday as Business Unity SA was unable to make its presentation due to “the short notice and urgency with which the ANC is conducting the process”, Ollis said.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance spokesman Wayne Duvenage said his organisation had “got wind of” the hearings only on Monday. “I’m not sure what the purpose of having only two entities present is,” said Duvenage.
News of the hearings had been “an absolute surprise”.
“The reality is that if society disagrees with e-tolls and doesn’t participate and makes it ungovernable, what are they going to do?” Duvenage asked.
Ollis added: “The DA cannot accept that this is an adequate process of public participation or that the committee members will have sufficient time to consider the inputs received before the bill is debated.”
Responding to the claims, committee chairwoman Ruth Bhengu said: “That is not true. The Portfolio Committee followed Parliamentary Processes in terms the rules of Parliament.”
Vavi said Bhengu had seen fit to “accuse Cosatu of not representing the poor and stated that the poor do not use cars to get to work”.
“In fact, it is the poor who will suffer when they are forced off these soon-to-be privatised roads and when inflation for food and other necessities increases. It is only the elite who would benefit from empty roads and profiteering off a public good.”
He said Cosatu would continue to fight the “reckless form of privatisation that does nothing to help our people”. It would strike on November 30.