E-tolling is harming the poor and working class, who are already struggling with the high cost of living, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said on Thursday.
“It has proved to be anti-working class because the implications thereof have been detrimental to the proletariat,” Gauteng provincial secretary Chris Nkosi told the advisory panel on e-tolling and its socio-economic impact in Midrand.
The union believed Austrian company Kapsch being awarded the tender worth billions of rands to operate and administer the e-toll system, and having a majority stake in the project, was indicative of privatisation.
“Sanral indicated that the [Gauteng] premier’s review panel would create uncertainty,” Nkosi said.
This showed the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) prioritised foreign investors over the working class.
Nkosi said while it had been said that public transport, such as buses and taxis, would be excluded from the system, taxis were privately-owned and did not qualify as public transport.
“Maybe there is a need for us to understand public transport,” Nkosi said.
The working class continued to be excluded from the benefits of South Africa’s infrastructure.
“Workers are forced to pay a colossal amount of money to travel on South Africa’s roads.”
This was in the face of an unemployment rate of at least 25 percent and the poor and working class being affected by higher-than-average inflation.
“In fact we are living from hand to mouth,” Nkosi said.
Satawu lamented the lack of a safe, reliable transport system, making owning a car not a need but a requirement.
“You see e-tolls in developed countries, there is no problem,” Nkosi said.
“In South Africa you have to travel to work, and the more you travel to work, the more you travel under gantries, the more you have to pay.”
The union could see the “drastic improvement” that had taken place on Gauteng freeways since the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which e-tolls were funding.
“The standard is very high. We need to applaud the work done. The question is, how do you pay?” Nkosi said.
“Roads should be maintained through the petrol levy… The petrol levy should be developing South Africa’s roads.”
A slight increase in the levy would have minimal impact on the poor, and did not require any person to administer it.
Satawu wanted a minimum 1c addition to the fuel levy or an increase in corporate tax.
The panel is focusing on the implications and perceptions of financing the GFIP and e-tolls.
On Monday, the Gauteng provincial government announced the panel would embark on a month-long consultation process, starting on Wednesday, with organisations and individuals.
Organisations were invited to make submissions on the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the GFIP and e-tolls.
The panel was expected to report to premier David Makhura at the end of November.