30/04/2012 A Sanral board showing different e-tag tariffs on Malibongwe road in Randburg Gauteng. (1478) Photo: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - Motorists in Gauteng must continue to use the highways without paying the e-toll bills, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Thursday.

“We are calling upon our people to continue to defy the system and those who received the bills must burn them,” said Gauteng provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile.

“We will be convening a big burning ceremony in front of the Sanral (SA National Roads Agency Limited) office in due course for the public to bring their bills for us to collectively burn them as part of our defiance campaign.”

Cosatu welcomed the establishment of the review panel by Gauteng premier David Makhura which was tasked to review the impact of the system in the province.

“We think that these efforts to find an amicable solution to the disaster created by the department of transport and its agency Sanral should be afforded a space by all and sundry.”

Dakile said Cosatu also rejected attempts by Sanral and the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute those who were not registering and not paying the bills.

The labour federation was expanding the fight against e-tolls, regardless of the reprieve announced by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters in Parliament on July 15.

“The minister’s statement unfortunately, however, does not indicate any change in government policy, just a few little ‘concessions’ to try to sugar the pill, in the hope it would encourage a few more people to pay for e-tolls.”

He said Cosatu in Gauteng, the National Taxi Alliance, the SA Council of Churches and the National Association of School Governing Bodies were angry that national government was disrespecting Makhura's decision to appoint an advisory panel to study the effect of e-tolls.

“The department of transport is in effect saying that the panel’s findings will not make the slightest difference to national government policy, that it is business as usual and e-tolls are here to stay anyway.”

Dakile said tolls added to the cost of living of workers and the poor.

“They are already suffering from rising fuel prices and electricity tariffs. Inflation rose by 6.6 percent year-on-year in May 2014, after a 6.1 percent rise in April.

“Food inflation, which hits the poorest hardest, increased by 9.1 percent, including the ever-increasing fuel cost which has a direct impact to the operation cost.”

There was a genuine problem of congestion on the roads, but this would not be solved by forcing people to pay to use the roads.

“The solution has to be improving our public transport services, making them more reliable, accessible, affordable and safe, until they become the best way to travel, which motorists will prefer to use and leave their cars at home.”