Fuel Hike Protest

We united against Zuma, now we unite against this – Maimane

By Bheki C. Simelane 31 July 2018

DA Leader Mmusi Maimane listens during a protest march at National Treasury against rising fuel prices and the cost of living. Photo: Bheki Simelane

On Tuesday various political, religious, civic, and other organisations staged a protest just outside the National Treasury in Pretoria to protest the “unaffordable fuel costs and ever-rising cost of living”. Whether anything will come of the action is yet to be seen.

As news of yet another fuel increase was made public cash-strapped South Africans gathered on the steps of the National Treasury to make their voices heard.

Among them were politicians, civic and religious organisations, all of whom say the rising cost of fuel and associated costs were hitting them hard.

Addressing protesters outside the National Treasury, DA (Democratic Alliance) leader Mmusi Maimane demanded that the fuel levy be cut by R1 per litre or 20% arguing that this would see the petrol price drop to below R15 a litre.

But, he said, instead of government listening, he was being asked where the money was coming from. At Tuesday’s protest he outlined where the money should come from.

Maimane said resources were being used to fund a bloated government and an ANC that doesn’t care about South Africans.

This is not a government that works for the people but against the people,” the DA leader said. He said the removal of corruption would free many resources that could benefit the people of the country. Maimane added that more money could come from the sale of the unprofitable South African Airways.

The protest comes at a time when many South Africans are struggling to make ends meet due to the rising cost of living, and as the ANC government acknowledged the strain of an ever increasing fuel price on ordinary South Africans’ lives. President Cyril Ramaphosa had at the beginning of July tasked various stakeholders from the economics cluster to come up with a package of economic measures to cushion the public from the crippling effects of high fuel price hikes and the VAT increase. The details of this package are yet to be made public.

Vusi Zondo, 27, from Pretoria said he participated in the protests out of concern over the rising cost of living. Zondo said because of the increasing fuel price his taxi fare from his home in Mabopane had increased to R25 from R22.

Zondo, a father of two, said life was “simply unaffordable”. He said the increases would lead to increased crime rates.

It’s even tougher for us who get paid less than R4,000 a month,” he said.

DA Tshwane mayor Solly Msimang said the increases were going to start killing jobs. He said more strain was being put on a public that is already struggling to afford the cost of living. He said taxis fares had gone up in a number of areas in Pretoria. Msimang said it was unfair that countries such as Lesotho who obtain their petrol from SA were paying cheaper for petrol. He acknowledged that the increase would lead to increases of other commodities as well, which many South Africans were already starting to feel.

Ockert Engelbrecht, 66, a pensioner and Freedom Front Plus member decried the lack of leadership in the country. He called for South Africans to make wiser choices in next year’s elections to avoid the increases in fuel and VAT.

I’m here in solidarity against the fuel increases and all other increases. Everything is going up. These increases are being implemented against low wages and fuelled by corruption. I can’t drive my car any more because I simply cannot afford fuel. I can’t go to church any more. I have to rely on friends for transport. Last year was a little better in terms of what one was paying for stuff. This year things have just gone out of hand. We need leadership that will always stay conscious to the needs of the people,” Engelbrecht said.

It will come to a point where people will have to make a choice between feeding their stomachs and going to work,” one protester said.

The ACDP’s Reverend Kenneth Meshoe said the current leadership did not have the interests of people at heart. He added that the reason petrol was cheaper in the countries who obtain their petrol via South Africa was because those countries’ governments care for the people. “If you do not reduce the price of petrol, government will be removed from power and replaced with a new government,” Meshoe said.

Meshoe suggested that the petrol price be capped at R13.

Agnes Dlamini, 66, from Pretoria said she was struggling to raise her five grandchildren. She said she was living in constant fear for her grandchildren as her pension is now too little to sustain her family. “I am at a point where I cannot afford to feed them any more, but I cannot abandon them. If we die of hunger we will die together,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini added that last year was no different as they lived from hand to mouth.

Ronnie Mokoena, 52, from Hammanskraal in Pretoria said said life was too tough. “There are no means for survival. Salaries remain low while the cost of living is ever on the rise. They are raising petrol, but they can’t create work,” he said.

Added Maimane: “We united against the removal of Jacob Zuma, and Zuma is gone. Now we are uniting against this issue.” DM

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