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E-Tolls - Cosatu's Campaign

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has learned with regret that the Supreme Court of appeal has dismissed OUTA's bid to stop the implementation of e-tolls on Gauteng highways.

This decision will however make no difference to COSATU's unwavering campaign against this attempt to privatise out public highways, which was never primarily based on the legality of the tolls but on a fundamental political principle - that our roads are a public asset, already paid for through taxation and the fuel levy, and motorists should not therefore have to pay again to drive on these public highways.

 

The Central Executive Committee meeting of COSATU established a Socio-economic Commission, as a sub-committee of the CEC, one of whose first tasks will be to take forward the socio-economic campaigns already agreed to, including the campaign against e-tolls and the commodification of our public highways.

This Commission will meet on Friday 11 September 2o14 to set a date for a national day of action on e-tolls, better public transport and all the other campaigns.

We firmly believe that public support is mounting and we are strongly confident that people's power will ultimately convince the government to abandon a policy with is extremely unpopular, unfair and unworkable, for the following reasons:

1. Tolls will add to the burdens of the poor:

The poor will be forced to pay to travel on highways which were previously free of charge.

It will not just affect the people of Gauteng, as the government has now conceded that e-tolling will replace the existing toll-gates throughout the country.

It is not true that only the middle class use our highways. Many low income earners use private cars to travel to work, because our public transport system is so unreliable and they have no alternative.

Large numbers of private vehicle users simply do not have a single extra rand to spend.

Tolls will also put an indirect burden on the poor of the whole of South Africa, by adding to the cost of transporting goods and will have an immediate effect on food inflation.

2. Tolls will perpetuate exclusion:

‘User-pays' means that you cannot use the best roads if you cannot afford to pay. The logic is that those without the money to pay the tolls should be excluded from access to the best roads. They must find the potholed side roads, while those with the money glide along the highways in their fancy cars.

COSATU has consistently argued that taxation must be the main source of funding for road infrastructure. If additional revenues have to be raised by

government, then this must be done through a progressive tax system, rather than tolls which take no account of the ability of the drivers' to pay.

3. Public Transport is totally inadequate:

Government has now exempted registered public transport vehicles from the tolls, but very few buses and taxis actually use the tolled highways.

Public transport largely remains woefully inadequate both in quality and in the numbers of people it serves.

A third of our people use private cars to get to and from work. Not from choice but because our public transport system is expensive, unsafe and unreliable.

4. Tolls represent a form of Privatisation:

The introduction of a tolling system that brings the private sector to operate the tolled roads is a form of privatisation, the commodification of what ought to be an essential publicly funded public service.

Worst is that the contracts signed with the companies operating the tolls remain secret. All evidence indicates that the revenues from the tolls are going to be enormous and that the loans will be paid off quickly, leaving the private operator to milk the public.

5. Cost of collection:

Another reason for opposing the tolls is the cost of collection, which will consume a massive 17% of the money collected in tolls. This means that tolls are not only and unfair but also a grossly inefficient way of raising the money for road improvements.

Even if the government makes further cuts in levels of tolls, the collection costs will become an increasingly larger % of the amount collected.

A large portion of the revenue collected will ultimately find its way into the pockets of the toll operators. Trying to collect all this money from four million motorists will be impossible to manage and will become unworkable.

6. Income to be supplemented by fine collection:

In addition to the collection of toll fees, the operator will rely on the technology in the system to administer fines for non payment of toll fees. This back-door generation of income for profit from fines is in COSATU's view an abuse of the rule of law.

Stop the privatisation of our public highways!

Reject user-pays for basic public services!

Don't buy e-tags!

Don't register will Sanral!

Make e-tolling unworkable!

Statement issued by Patrick Craven, COSATU national spokesperson, October 9 2013