30/11/2012. Marchers protesting through the streets of Pretoria against the e-Tolling sytem. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg - Cosatu has sent out a strong message to the departments of transport and finance, giving them three days to respond to its demand to do away with e-tolls.

At least 400 people marched to the two departments in the city yesterday to inform government that e-tolls would take food out of the mouths of the poor. The federation gave the departments a deadline of 5pm Monday to respond, failure of which would lead to further action.

In their memorandum, Cosatu said the tolls would add to the burdens that the poor already face every day. Provincial secretary, Dumisane Dakile said yesterday’s marches in Pretoria and Joburg were just warm-ups and if the government fails to listen to them, they would intensify their actions.

“If they don’t respond by the deadline, we are going to occupy the streets of Tshwane and reclaim our streets. We are not going to accept the continuation of e-tolls. South Africa is the most uneven country in the world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and e-tolls will perpetuate the unevenness. Where must we get the extra money to cover the extra costs while people are not given pay increases?” he asked.

Dakile told finance department officials that the system was a way of saying the poor should not use the highways. He also said the reason the government wanted the e-tolls was because officials used government cars and weren’t going to be paying with their money. “It is not their money they will be spending, but ours. Show real commitment on the provision of public transport. Public transport in this country is a mess and the poor spend half of their salaries on public transport,” he said.

Dakile told the acting deputy director-general at the Department of Transport, James Mlawu, that they should demolish the toll gantries, and if they were unable to demolish them, they could call the federation and it would do that for them. “Call us, we are capable. The Department of Local Government and Housing has also demonstrated its capabilities. If they could demolish houses, they can also do that with the gantries. If we don’t get a response, we are marching on the freeways. Comrades, bring your bicycles; farmers have also promised to bring tractors,” he said.

Dakile also urged the Department of Transport to commission an inquiry so that they could establish who the beneficiaries milking the country of billions of rand were.

The two departments promised to look at the memorandum and do their best to meet the deadline.

Although a larger number was expected, many did not turn up for the march.

Those who did said it was disappointing to see the small number.

Natie Ferreira said the decision of many who opposed tolls not to participate in the march, would show the government that not enough people were willing to take a day off to protest against it. “It is going to be bad once the government has people’s details in the system, because then they will increase the prices. We have to stop e-tolls before the implementation, because [the cost of anything] that has to be transported will increase,” said Ferreira.

Cosatu’s Tshwane chairman, Johannes Clouw, also took a swipe at mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa. He said Ramokgopa had yet to respond to a memorandum they gave his office earlier in November.

“Please respond before we make Tshwane ungovernable…[they] will have sleepless nights and we are not apologetic about it,” said Clouw.

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