Community members hold placards during the toll road hearing at the Johannesburg City Hall. Photo: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi has slammed the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) for registering motorists for the province’s controversial e-tolling system while public hearings were still being held.

On Friday, pressure mounted as civil bodies, political parties and unions stood together at the Gauteng legislature to reject the system.

Cosatu renewed its threat to take to the streets, warning the government the streets would be covered in red, while the DA said it would add “some blue”.

Consultation had been “inadequate”, said Vadi. “I am a bit concerned Sanral is proceeding with e-tags registrations while they should have waited for the outcome of this hearing.”

Vadi told the petition hearing he might have strong views about the tolling system, but he was not the principal decision maker as this was the National Department of Transport’s job.

He said his department believed Sanral should not proceed with the implementation of the proposed phases of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

He added this had been communicated officially to Minster of Transport Sbu Ndebele and Sanral.

Resident Tshepiso Makaleng, who attended the hearing, asked for the tolls to be scrapped He said his salary was commission-based and travelling 200km a day to see clients and paying tolls would cost him dearly.

“I would like to ask who is benefiting from the tolls system and why there was no public consultation process?

“If the Department of Transport is involved, what happened to the principle of batho pele (people first)?”

The Gauteng petition standing committee heard concerns that the high cost of the tolls would increase the cost of living and doing business.

Cosatu Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile said the tolls would affect workers the most. “Already, some companies have indicated that, should the tolls be implemented, they are going to retrench workers.”

In the meantime, “we have heard that Sanral is already registering tags for tolling while this hearing process is taking place, and it must be called into order”.

Dakile said everything had gone wrong with a lack of consultation on the proposed tolls. He asked that Sanral be stopped with immediate effect.

Another angry resident, Thabo Molapo, warned that the e-tolls would negatively impact on poor communities.

Maria Sibanda waved a placard reading “kill tolling not the consumer”.

Alli Gula, a representative of the NGO Road Safety Campaign, said people were willing to march from Joburg to Pretoria and sleep on the grounds of the Union Buildings to ensure the tolls were scrapped.

The chairman of the standing committee on petitions in the legislature, Jacob Khawe, said petitioners should join forces with the committee, provincial transport department and others to draft a joint petition in 14 days, that they could hand to Ndebele. - Saturday Star