Protesters burnt their unpaid e-toll bills on top of an empty coffin while singing the national anthem outside the offices of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) in Pretoria on Saturday.
“Today we bury a stillborn that was born in December last year‚ and before December this year‚ we will cremate him‚” a Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) member said in reference to the electronic tolling system.
A 50-vehicle-strong convoy led by Cosatu embarked on a drive-slow on Saturday morning‚ from the trade union federation’s headquarters in Johannesburg to Sanral’s offices. They were joined by bikers and taxi drivers.
“We will pay for e-tolls when (President Jacob) Zuma pays for Nkandla‚” said a biker. The group later danced and sang outside the offices John Baun‚ owner of the Bronville Taxi Association‚ travelled from the Free State to be part of the campaign. He had to pay around R250 in e-toll fees when his taxis made a single trip to Gauteng.
“We drove through to support the campaign because e-tolls are crippling our businesses too‚” said Mr Baun. Earlier motorists travelling along the M1 hooted and cheered as the convoy made its way across the highway. However‚ some motorists were left frustrated by the backlog caused by the convoy‚ which left only one lane out of three open. One irritated driver called out to the convoy: “Is this what you do with your time?”
Banners‚ inviting people to “Hoot against e-tolls” were draped across bridges on the highway. Police were on the scene and diverted traffic away from the protest. At times‚ the protesters got out of their vehicles to sing and dance along the lanes of the highway usually occupied by speeding city slickers. Earlier‚ this week Cosatu Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile said the protesters also planned to enact the “burning of the e-tags and the bills which had been received by our people.”
He accused Sanral of abusing more than R20bn on upgrading the province’s highways without consulting citizens‚ and suggested Sanral was “selling our public roads to the highest bidder and to monopoly capital without caring about our country and its people.”