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COSATU on Sugar Tax Part 1 of 3
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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

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Cosatu Gauteng, South African Council of Churches Gauteng, National Taxi Alliance and National Association of School Governing Bodies have noted development in relation to the e-tolling fiasco.

18 September 2014

We welcome the establishment of the Review Panel by the Gauteng Premier David Makhura which is tasked among others to review the impact of this system in the Province of Gauteng. We think that these efforts to find an amicable solution to the disaster created by the Department of Transport and its agency Sanral should be afforded a space by all and sundry.

We also reject attempts by Sanral and NPA to prosecute those who are collaborating with the system by not registering and also by not paying for the ridiculous bills.

The fight against e-tolls is being intensified and broadened by the Congress of South African trade Unions in Gauteng, regardless of the so-called ‘reprieve’ announced by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters in Parliament on 15 July 2014, which the federation has already rejected.

Her ‘concessions’ include an extended payment period of 51 days from the day motorists pass through a gantry, as opposed to the current seven days, a 48 percent e-tag-holder discount and a “time-of-day discount”.

This move is a desperate attempt to respond to the waves of resistance to e-tolls, the widespread refusal to pay them, the imminent collapse of the collection system and the clear sign that the ANC in Gauteng lost votes on the provincial election on 7 May 2014. The Ostrich attitude by some in the movement would not help and assist the organizations.

The minister’s statement unfortunately however does not indicate any change in government policy, just a few little ‘concessions’ to try to sugar the pill, in the hope it would encourage a few more people to pay for e-tolls and, as she put, to “continue contributing towards the building of a better South Africa, to move our country forward". But she made it clear that the policy and the obnoxious ‘user-pays’ principle on which it is based remain firmly as government’s policy.

What particularly angers COSATU Gauteng, National Taxi Alliance, South African Council of Churches and National Association of School Governing Bodies is that national government is disrespecting the decision by Provincial Premier David Makhura to appoint an advisory panel to study the effect of e-tolls, which we fully support.

The Department of Transport is in effect saying that the panel’s findings will not make the slightest difference to national government policy, that it is business as usual and e-tolls are here to stay anyway.

Further proof that nothing has changed was the statement by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that they have assigned two prosecutors to work to establish whether the activities by some motorists constitute an offence in terms of the Sanral Act, Section 27(5) (a), which makes it an offence to refuse or fail to pay the amount of toll that is due and is punishable on conviction with imprisonment or a fine.

They seem set on dragging the first non-payer into court to make an example of him or her. Be assured: COSATU, its partners in the fight against the E-toll and thousands of others will be at that court in solidarity with whoever is the first to appear.

COSATU, South African Council of Churches, National Taxi Alliance and National Association of School Governing Bodies views are that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for one organ of state to pursue criminal prosecution over unpaid e-toll bills while another organ of state is inviting public engagement to examine the impact that e-tolls is having on the productivity of the region, the social well- being of its people, and the implications for the environment... The Minister’s ‘reprieve’ is in fact further evidence that the system is fundamentally ill-conceived, unworkable and destined for the scrap heap of history.

Tolls add to the cost of living of workers and the poor, who are being charged to travel on highways which were previously free of charge, and already paid for through taxes. They are already suffering from rising fuel prices and electricity tariffs. Inflation rose by 6.6% year-on-year in May 2014, after a 6.1% rise in April. Food inflation, which hits the poorest hardest, increased by 9.1% including the ever increasing Fuel post which has a direct impact to the operation cost.

Cosatu, National Taxi Alliance, South African Council of Churches and National Association of School Governing Bodies remain totally opposed to e-tolls and the user-pays principle, an elitist, capitalist ‘principle’ which is also pushed in the National Development Plan (NDP) which states that in the long term, "users must pay the bulk of the costs for economic infrastructure, with due protection for poor households".

This is one of many areas where the NDP’s position is fundamentally contrary to our views. The ‘user-pays’ principle for public services such as education, health care and public transport perpetuates the two-tier system of service delivery. Its logical conclusion would mean that only the sick would pay for medical services and only the parents of school-age children would pay for education.

It is directly opposed to the spirit of the Freedom Charter, which calls for public services to be provided on the basis of people`s needs and not their wealth.

Proof that e-tolls are in effect a form of privatisation was vividly shown recently when Sanral objected to the Premier’s review panel on the grounds that it created uncertainty and undermined investor confidence. For Sanral comforting private investors is more important than listening to a democratically elected Premier who responded to the people of Gauteng after they made their hatred of e-tolls clear in the election.

We all know, from our journeys to work every day that there is a genuine problem of congestion on our roads, but this will not be solved by forcing people to pay to use the roads - which many low income earners use to travel to work solely because they have no reliable alternative - or alternatively excluding those who cannot pay.

The solution has to be improving our public transport services, making them more reliable, accessible, affordable and safe, until they become the best way to travel, which motorists will prefer to use and leave their cars at home.
For all these reasons e-tolls remain not only unjust but also unworkable and the mass campaign of resistance goes on.

COSATU Gauteng, National Taxi Alliance, National Association of the School Governing Bodies had organised many highly successful ‘drive-slows’ on the highways and many other protest action to mobilize the community to support and understand the impact of the e-toll System in the Province and to the country at large.

We are calling upon our communities and the drivers of Gauteng to continue to use the Highway and not to pay for the e-tolls Bills. We are calling upon our people to continue to defy the system and those who received the bills must burn them.

It is on this basis that we are going to go out today and burn the bills that have been received by some of our members. We would be convening a big burning ceremony in front of Sanral office in due course for the public to bring their bills for us to collectively burn them as part of our defiance Campaign.

- 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!

“Asibadali Ama-E-tolls Asinamali” “ Iyahlanya I-Sanral”

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