Cosatu took to the streets on Friday to challenge the government’s determination to push through the e-tolls system on Gauteng’s freeways. The turnout was lower than expected and there was little new from the union federation’s 7 March demonstration. But those who attended were those who are worried not just about e-tolls but the country’s future and the government’s ability to deliver. By GREG NICOLSON
Photo: After a delayed start, about 600 people joined the Cosatu march in Johannesburg on Friday against e-tolls, labour brokers and the demolition of houses in Lenasia. Only a handful of people arrived for the 09:00 start outside the Market Theatre before the demonstrators followed their leaders down Bree Street before making a turn to the Gauteng premier’s office.
Photo: Unsatisfied by the government’s continued desire to implement e-tolls since its massive 7 March demonstration, Cosatu once again took to the streets against the issue. It was a watered-down version of the earlier demonstration with similar aims. But judging from the turnout it seems much of the public has lost the appetite to protest e-tolls. Media got their stock of toyi-toying photos from energetic unionists, but there was little new on offer.
Photo: Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi lambasted government for failing to implement legislation limiting labour brokers while it was able to draft laws for e-tolls in only four days. “We want to show government where power lies,” he told the crowd outside Premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s office. He called e-tolls a “clever way of stealing from the poor. “This power you have is a borrowed power,” he told government. “All we’re asking is that you listen to our voices. Don’t be arrogant.” Vavi said at 05:00 on 6 December workers will park their cars at e-toll gantries to close the freeways. “Bring a truck. Bring a trailer. Bring everything. Take it to the nearest e-toll and park it there.”
Photo: Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi said his department would respond to the memorandum within seven days. Vavi said they are still waiting on the response to Cosatu’s 7 March memorandum. That response shows government’s unwillingness to scrap the plan to toll roads involved in the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. The North Gauteng High Court reserved judgment Wednesday on the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s bid to have e-tolls scrapped.
Photo: Traffic in Johannesburg came to a standstill as the march passed. The crowd roared when Vavi referred to taxis as “moving coffins” and challenged MEC Ismail Vadi to travel by taxi. He said money should be invested in public transport and it should happen now.
Photo: Acting ANC Youth League head Ronald Lamola said he was disappointed the marchers consisted mainly of the black working class when the issue affects rich and poor, black and white. Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance head Wayne Duvenage addressed the crowd, but there were no representatives of business present as the crowd mainly consisted of Cosatu members.
Photo: Demonstrators expressed concerns about labour brokers and, to a lesser extent, e-tolls. But the overwhelming feeling of the march was not one of outrage against plans related to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan but of exasperation with how the government disrespects the interests of the poor and abuses state funds. In the background was a debate about the direction the ANC has taken in government since 1994 and a fight over who it represents and what it stands for. DM
MAIN PHOTO: There were demonstrators both in support of President Zuma’s second term as well of a change of ANC leadership. Some voters took Vavi’s strong line against the government as a cue to roll their arms signaling desire for leadership change. Vavi, however, raised two fingers in support of Zuma’s second term and called for unity.
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