STEPHANIE VAN DER PLANK
Hundreds of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supporters gathered in the Johannesburg city centre on Friday to protest against e-tolling in Gauteng. Protesters marched tothe Department of Housing, Transport and the office of the premier,calling for the e-tolling system to be scrapped and for an end to the recent housing demolitions in the province.
COSATU Secretary General, Zwelenzima Vavi, called on support from citizens across the country, saying other provinces cannot stand by and watch events unfold. He told Eye Witness News (EWN)that, “This is not about Gauteng – this is about South Africa.” EWN reported Vavi saying Friday’s march was just a taste of what is to come should government implement e-tolling. “We are telling them today, you [are] dreaming. We will not support e-tolls.” Vavi called on protesters to start preparing for next week’s mass action, where they will setup a blockade of all major highways in the province in an attempt to bring Johannesburg and Pretoria to a standstill. The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) supported COSATUin the march and encouraged the youth to participate. News24 quoted ANCYL Spokesperson Khusela Sangoni-Khawe saying, “young people must swell the ranks of the downtrodden who [will] participate in marches to several government departments involved in the e-tolling disgrace.” The ANCYLsaid theyhave no doubt that the e-tolling system will only exacerbate the social problems that the country already faces.
On 6 December the ANCYL plans to participate in the second protest. “The mother of all battles is imminent,” Sangoni-Khawe said. The Mail and Guardian reported Vavi saying, “On the 6th of December we are not only going to march, but give the government a little dose of what to expect in March if they pass that law and try to force implementation of the e-tolls.”
It was reported on Thursday morning that COSATUwas threatening to demolish e-toll gantries on the highways. COSATU’s provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile dismissed the reports and told EWN the intention is only to ask for the gantries to be destroyed. “We will ask the Department of Housing and Local Government to demolish the tolls like[they] demolished homes in Lenasia,” he said. Government on Thursday warned that anyone who damaged property during COSATU’splanned e-toll protest on Friday will face the full might of the law. They called on those participating in the planned march to exercise their right to protest within South Africanlaw.After the march protesters dispersed and no laws were broken.