Cosatu will be joined by at least 10 civil society bodies and some religious leaders in a series of protests in the next few weeks against the e-tolling of Gauteng highways.
The SA Council of Churches and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) would lend their active support, Congress of SA Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“We will be embarking upon a series of protests and demonstrations… to highlight to the state and to government that this system is unacceptable.”
He said Cosatu and its partners would embark on a go-slow drive, and a march to bring the province’s highways to a standstill.
The first protest would be in Johannesburg on May 24. The protest would target the M1 north, N1 south, N12, and M2 north highways.
The second protest, in Ekurhuleni on May 31, would take up both directions on the N3, the N12, the R24, and the R21.
The protest action would culminate in a provincial “stay-away” and march on June 10. Details of that protest would be released later.
Dakile said protesters aimed to occupy all lanes on the highways. However emergency lanes would remain open.
Cosatu would also be joined by the Congress of SA Students; the SA Students’ Congress; the SA National Civic Organisation; the United Association of Taxis Forum; the Treatment Action Campaign; the National Association of National School Governing Bodies (NASGB); the National Taxi Forum; and Bikers Against E-tolls.
Dakile said prayer services would be held across the province in the coming weeks.
“The church is quite clear, and it is our view that even if Jesus Christ was alive today, he would be leading this protest [against e-tolls],” he said.
Father Michael Deeb, of the SACBC, agreed with Dakile.
“If we look at what my comrade here said, what Jesus did in his own life was that he did not accept any injustice and any forms of exploitation that was taking place,” he said.
People had questioned why the church was getting involved in the matter.
“After listening to things that have been going on for the last couple of years… we hoped the government would listen to the many reasonable arguments why e-tolls should be scrapped,” Deeb said.
“There is no justification for the e-tolls system. We are especially concerned because we see it as a massive misappropriation of public funds at best, and at worst there may be corruption involved.”
Shaun Pfister, of Bikers Against E-tolls, said it did not want e-tolls in any province.
“With the planning, the manipulation, and the way it has been implemented, the public on the whole has not been consulted.”
He apologised to motorists who would be inconvenienced by the protests.
“We are not doing this for bikers. We are doing it for everyone who uses our national roads,” he said.
“On Friday, when we go out… we are uniting cars and motorcycles and we are going to show what a difference it makes,” Pfister said.
“Remember, unity is strength. So the strength of the nation is here and we are going to stop this e-tolling.”
Pfister and other members of his organisation wore badges on their leather jackets reading: “e-toll can suck my toll-e [tollie is the slang word for penis]”.
One of them wore a swastika, and one the SS insignia, used by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s personal guards, the Schutzstaffel.
NASGB provincial secretary Matakanye Matakanya said his organisation was not joining the fight against e-tolls merely for Cosatu’s sake, but also to promote free education in the province.
“We will never smell free education in this country if the e-tolling system is brought into operation.”