Electronic toll gate structure on Gauteng highway. PHOTO/Yuri Madonsela
(Africa Review) – South African authorities have bowed to public pressure and postponed the April 30 launch of road tolls on 185 kilometres of the country’s national highways in the Gauteng Province.
The postponement, announced Thursday evening, just four days before the expected launch of the e-tolls, is a response to growing pressure from trade unions that had threatened to lead a second nationwide strike against the tolls on April 30.
The road tolls were to be launched in the Gauteng Province, which has the capital Pretoria and commercial city Johannesburg, before its subsequent roll out to the rest of the country’s highways.
In a statement released yesterday, the Director-General in South Africa’s Department of Transport, George Mahlalela said the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) and the Department of Transport had decided to postpone the implementation of the e-tolling project until May 30 “to finalize regulations following input on regulatory and administrative issues from the public and interested stakeholders.”
The statement from the Department of Transport did not provide any more details. However, a joint statement also released yesterday by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said the respective leaders of the two organisations had met earlier to receive a report from the Task Team on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. They then agreed to ask the South African government to postpone the implementation of the e-toll system by a month.
“This will give the task team more time to explore alternative funding mechanisms,” said the statement, which was jointly signed by the ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and his COSATU counterpart Zwelinzima Vavi.
COSATU, which brings together several trade unions in South Africa and is an influential entity in the ANC, has consistently opposed the road tolls, saying it would further eat into the meagre earnings of South African workers.