Another protest against e-tolls

The march against the controversial project is being led by the DA's Mmusi Maimane.

E-tolls. Picture: Lesego Ngobeni/ EWN

JOHANNESBURG - A protest against e-tolling is expected to take place this morning, just two days after President Jacob Zuma signed a bill into law giving the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) the green light to launch the controversial project.

The President announced he had signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law on Wednesday afternoon.

The news that the bill had been signed followed months of uncertainty and speculation over when e-tolling would begin and has been met with scepticism and anger by civil society groups, opposition parties and religious groups.

Also on Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) heard a challenge against e-tolling by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and reserved judgment in the matter.

Today's protest is being led by the Democratic Alliance's Mmusi Maimane who attended this week's court hearing.

"The consultation around tolling was not properly handled and we feel tolling is not workable in Gauteng."

But Sanral CEO Nazir Alli has told Eyewitness News he believes South Africans will eventually see the benefits of e-tolling and will pay their bills.

"We can't be selective in terms of which laws of our country we would like to respect and which we don't want to respect. That's what leads to a breakdown of society.

Alli says Sanral is ready to launch e-tolling and is just waiting for the final go ahead from the Transport Minister.

Although no date has been given, it's expected e-tolling will be launched next month.

MOTORISTS WARNED

Meanwhile, Sanral's Vusi Mona warned people on Thursday not to take chances with the new system.

He said with all the e-tolling hurdles now cleared, motorists must buy their e-tags to avoid the risk of criminal prosecution.

"I know of people who have gone through our gantries without paying and they were prosecuted. Today, they have a criminal record."

But the system's critics have called for motorists to not support e-tolling, claiming the project will eventually be abandoned.

'FIGHT ONLY BEGINNING'

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said the real e-tolling fight is only beginning and society will continue to reject the unpopular system.

Cosatu's Patrick Craven said the system will have to be abandoned because of how unpopular and unworkable it is.

"The real fight is just beginning. Up until now there have just been skirmishes."

Maimane said motorists must now use their votes to oppose e-tolling.

"I think it's very clear that the people of Gauteng, under the pressure of the 2010 World Cup, are now being asked to finance a very expensive project."

Outa Chairperson Wayne Duvenage said e-tolling was doomed.

"If they could wind back the clock looking forward a year or so from now, they're going to regret the day they introduced e-tolling if they ever do."

But Mona said only pessimists want e-tolls to fail.

"We have never doubted the commitment of the head of state to the policies of the very government that he leads."