Tonight, at midnight, the heavily criticized E-toll system will go live in Gauteng province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are situated. The major trade union, Cosatu, many of the churches and the opposition parties are against it. In short it means that motorists travelling on free-ways in and around Johannesburg will have to pay more than ever. This means extra costs for the motorists but also for those who travel with public transport.
Today a number of very prominent church leaders issued a statement where they call on other church leaders, church members and all South Africans who support democracy, to refuse to pay this unjust e-toll. This has not happened in the new South Africa. The church leaders also refer to the struggle against apartheid when they write:
The months to come will be difficult, but it is very important that we continue to demand that government is accountable to the people, that consultation is not negotiable when it comes to such important decisions, and that the voice of the people has to be heard and taken account of. It appears that Government needs to be reminded of the voice of the people in 1955, as expressed in the Freedom Charter demand that “the people shall govern”!
I must admit that I have had problems in understanding how this new system will affect the lives of ordinary people. But the reaction from the church leaders indicates that people in South Africa maybe have had enough. Amongst those who have signed is Bishop Jo Seoka, President of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), Bishop Zipho Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa,
Bishop Abel Gabuza, Chairperson of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Department, Rev Dr Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA), and Rev Dr Mary Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. They represent different main line churches in South Africa.
According to Mail and Guardian less than 50% of the motorists have bought the E-tag, which will make it cheaper to use the freeways. The question is: what will the rest do? Will they use other roads? In that case it means that those roads will be congested in ways that will create a lot of frustration and anger.