Call for R1-a-litre cut in fuel price gathers momentum
On Tuesday the ACDP, Cope and Freedom Front Plus, as well as the Forum for Service Delivery, also came out in support of the campaign, which was initially launched by the DA, Outa, the National Taxi Alliance (NTA) and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) last week.
Their supporters marched to the National Treasury headquarters in Church Street, Pretoria, carrying posters depicting their concerns about the increasing fuel prices - the latest one today.
The price increase comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s three-day cabinet lekgotla begins on Wednesday.
The opposition parties were unanimous in their call for the reduction. At the march, Outa’s Ben Theron asked Ramaphosa to speed up the process for the return of R100 billion allegedly looted by the Guptas and siphoned off to Dubai.
Theron said the money could be used to ease the petrol price in the country, which was high compared to neighbouring countries like Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana.
ACDP leader the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe told the marchers that petrol in Botswana cost R10.91 a litre, Lesotho R11.05 and Swaziland R12.78, but in South Africa, which supplied its neighbours, it cost around R16 a litre.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said that in the past year alone, “the tax war” on ordinary citizens had made life extremely hard for those who could least afford it. “VAT has gone up. Income tax has gone up. Sin taxes have gone up. Electricity has gone up. All this while income and social grants have barely kept up with inflation,” he said.
“But the one increase that has really hit poor people has been the fuel price, because this affects the two things they spend the biggest part of their income on: transport and food,” Maimane said.
Stretched to breaking point
The DA leader reminded that this year alone there had been four fuel price increases in four consecutive months, with a fifth coming into effect on Wednesday, and there would no doubt be more in the near future.
“Every cent of every increase finds its way into taxi fares, bus fares and the price of food transported on our roads. Poor people, already stretched to breaking point, must simply pay more. And the truth is they just can’t any longer,” lamented Maimane.
He said a large chunk of fuel price - in fact a full-third of it - was made up of two government taxes: the General Fuel Levy and the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy. “For every litre of petrol you buy, R5.30 goes towards these two taxes.
“And when you look at all the factors that make up our fuel price, it is these two taxes that have increased far more than anything else in recent years.
“Over the past 10 years the fuel levy has almost doubled, and the RAF has more than tripled,” he said.
In their memorandum, the parties called for an urgent debate in Parliament to consider the current structure of the RAF and general fuel levies, and how these could be altered to offer relief. They suggested placing the RAF under independent and external administration to eradicate corruption, install competent and independent leadership and begin the process of tackling its R160bn backlog in unpaid claims.
National Treasury officials told the protesters that they would hand over their memorandum to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene.
The officials said they could not comment as the response to fuel price increases would come from the cabinet, which would discuss the outcomes of the inter-ministerial committee which Ramaphosa had tasked with looking into the increases.