Cosatu urges unity on ‘Black Tuesday’

The trade union federation called on motorists to join the working class battle against e-tolls.

An e-toll gantry on the N1 in Johannesburg. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng motorists should stop venting their anger against e-tolling on social networks and join the working class in the battle to stop the multibillion rand system, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Tuesday.

Gantries around the province went live at midnight after a year and a half of court battles, protests and threats of civil disobedience.

The trade union federation reaffirmed its opposition to e-tolling in what it dubbed Black Tuesday.

Cosatu says "Black Tuesday" represents the moment government refused to consider the views of the public.

It maintains the system can still be defeated.

Cosatu Gauteng Secretary Dumisani Dakile says the ANC will regret the number of voters it may lose in next year's election as a result of e-tolling.

He says it's still possible to find other ways to pay for the controversial system.

"It is not too late for comrade Jacob Zuma to reconsider. Other options are available."

In the meantime, Dakile says they will start planning their next protest against the tolls.

"We will be starting with our action early in January. Our campaigns committee is currently engaged in developing a detailed programme."

Cosatu says members of the public must realise that complaining on social networks won't help.

It says they need to join forces with the unions on the ground because only mass mobilisation and political action will stop e-tolls.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) says it generally takes months for a system of this magnitude to collapse.

CALL FOR COMPLIANCE

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters says buying e-tags is the right thing to do.

She also lashed out at those who've threatened to boycott or sabotage the project.

"Do the honourable thing and go and get tagged. That is the most honourable thing that honourable South Africans can do - people who want infrastructure that can withstand the elements."

Peters did however make an important concession.

"Our people should have been communicated with throughout at every stage of the development of the infrastructure. I am the first to concede that there was a communication gap."

Meanwhile, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) says Tuesday's launch went flawlessly and it expects its systems to remain stable.

IMPACT ON TRAFFIC

Throughout Tuesday, Eyewitness News has had a helicopter monitoring traffic over Gauteng.

In the morning, the chopper reported few significant changes in the traffic patterns, though tolled highways flowed freely while alternate routes took some strain under the added pressure.

In the afternoon, with the added impact of heavy rain, traffic on many major roads was gridlocked.

Tolled roads remained busy but alternate routes including the R101, R55 and Witkoppen Road and the M1 south were under unusual strain.

However, it will take time for the full effects of e-tolling to become apparent.

Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi says some drivers might adjust their routes indefinitely.

"We anticipate, over the next few months, there might be changes in travel patterns. That is understandable. Some people might choose to opt permanently to go onto the alternative roads because they might find the tolled network too expensive."

Vadi says government will continue to maintain and upgrade supporting routes.