Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. File photo: Matthews Baloyi

Unions have vowed to bring Joburg to a standstill should the government force the e-tolls down the public’s throats.

Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said e-tolling was a lifetime debt, which would also be paid by many generations to come.

“The e-tolls will be introduced over our dead body,” Vavi said, adding they were already in talks with the unions to prepare for the strike should e-tolls go ahead.

Vavi said South Africans were already facing price increases on food, fuel and electricity.

“How do we get economic freedom when we are squeezed from all sides?” he asked.

He added that if the government said e-tolls would be paid off in 24 years, then “why have we not paid off the N3 to Durban, the N12 and the portion of N1?”

“Cosatu is already in talks with Nedlac for a legal protection of our members, in case employers want to fire them for opting to participate in protest action, instead of going to work,” Vavi said.

Chief executive of AfriForum Kallie Kriel said their members would participate in any protest action to fight the e-tolls.

“We are going to use the 30 days given for public comments to challenge the government on e-tolls, but if that fails, we will go to court.”

Wayne Duvenage, chairman of Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), an organisation formed to oppose e-tolls, said their legal case was getting stronger every day, as pro e-toll arguments remained weak and the benefits claimed had been discredited.

The organisation has also rejected Transport Minister Ben Martins’s claims that an increase in the fuel levy, to fund e-tolls and other national roads, would add to inflation and have an impact on those who did not use the tolled roads.

Duvenage accused the government of being selective about its “claimed support” for the user-pay principle.

“It imposes caps on high-volume users and exempts others, which contradicts a user-pay principle, aside from the simple fact that a user-pay policy is not applied consistently by the government.”

The court review is set down for November 26, while Outa had less than a month before the review.

Duvenage said they had managed to raise R7 million in donations, but were still R3m short.

The DA’s spokesman on transport, Ian Ollis, said: “It’s premature for the government to start implementing the e-tolling before the outcome of the court case… the government must explain why it can’t use the fuel levy instead of e-tolls.”

The e-tolling of Gauteng’s freeways will cost motorists with e-tags 30c/km,

a reduction from the 40c/km decided on last year.

A motorist travelling to work on the N1 from the Johannesburg CBD to Pretoria CBD would pay R6 in each direction, or R12 a day, as motorists would have to pay tolls only on certain sections of the N1.

If the motorist worked five days a week, s/he would pay about R60 a week, adding up to R3 120 a year.

Martins said the government had proposed that toll fees for e-tag users be capped at R550 a month for light vehicles. Independent on Sunday, with additional reporting by Sapa