DA leader Mmusi Maimane addresses protesters during their gathering outside the National Treasury in Pretoria to protest against fuel tax levies.
Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
THE increases in the petrol price, the latest of which is coming into effect today, were hitting the poor the hardest, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said yesterday.

Opposition parties, except the EFF and UDM, yesterday joined forces with the DA and Outa calling on the government to reduce the petrol price by R1a litre.

The ACDP, Cope, Freedom Front Plus and Forum 4 Service Delivery also came out in support of the campaign, initially lodged by the DA, Outa, the National Taxi Alliance and Santaco last week.

Their supporters marched to the National Treasury headquarters in the Pretoria CBD, carrying posters depicting their concerns about the increasing petrol prices.

The petrol increase today happens while President Cyril Ramaphosa’s three-day cabinet lekgotla also kicks off today. The opposition parties were unanimous in their call for the reduction of petrol prices.

Maimane said in the past year alone, “the tax war” on ordinary citizens had made life extremely hard for those who can 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,” Maimane said. “But the one increase that has really hit poor people in the pocket 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.

This year alone there have been four fuel price hikes four months in a row, he said, with a fifth coming into effect today. No doubt, the would be more in the near future, he said.

“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. Thanks to the sharp increases in the cost of fuel, the cost of living is fast becoming unaffordable,” Maimane said.

A large chunk of the 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 Levy, he said.

“For every litre of petrol you buy, R5.30 goes towards these two taxes. When you look at all the factors that make up our fuel price, these two taxes have increased far more than anything else in recent years.

“Over the past 10 years the General Fuel Levy has almost doubled, and the RAF levy more than tripled.”

Also at the march, Outa’s Ben Theron asked Ramaphosa to speed up the return of the R100billion allegedly stolen by the Guptas and siphoned to Dubai.

Theron said the R100bn could be used to ease the petrol prices that are reportedly high compared to that in the neighbouring countries of Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana.

ACDP leader Reverend Kenneth Meshoe told marchers that petrol in Botswana cost R10.91 a litre; in Lesotho R11.05 and in Swaziland R12.78 but in South Africa - which supplies its neighbours with petrol - petrol cost R15.80 a litre.

In their memorandum, the parties called for an urgent debate in Parliament to consider the current structure of the RAF and General Fuel Levies. Also, how these could be altered to offer relief to ordinary South Africans; placing the RAF under independent, 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 said they would hand over the memorandum to Minister Nhlanhla Nene.

National Treasury said it could not comment as the holistic response to fuel price increases would come from the cabinet, which would discuss the outcomes of the inter-ministerial committee Ramaphosa had tasked with looking into the fuel price increases and how their effects could be mitigated.