Cosatu warns that new charges will hit poorest citizens
South Africans marched across the country in support of a trade union campaign against electronic tolling on motorways and privatising roads.
Cosatu supporters flocked to marches in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng provinces yesterday in the climax of a three-day campaign against the tolls.
The union federation has launched a drive-slow campaign against the e-tolling.
Gauteng Cosatu secretary Dumisani Dakile said the campaign has received public support.
Drive-slows "are effective in relation to raising the message and the awareness to the public," he said. "It also irritates a number of politicians and we are quite happy with the irritation that we are causing."
Mr Dakile said workers would launch a deregistering campaign for those who had signed up to electronic tags.
Cosatu said it was wrong to make road users pay twice for improvements to infrastructure - once through taxation and then again through e-tolling.
"Tolls will impose a direct burden on the poor of Gauteng, who are already struggling with a rising cost of living and personal debt at an all-time high, and will now be forced to pay to travel on previously free highways," it said.
Workers were also marching for better public transport.
Health and education union NEHAWU deputy president Thozama Mantashe said: "Our union demands a decent national public transport system and an end to the apartheid spatial planning that keeps the poor and black majority on the periphery of the cities and far away from their places of work."
South Africa has largely failed to overcome apartheid-era settlement patterns that saw black communities shunted into townships away from economic centres.
Marchers demanded "effective, accessible, reliable, affordable and safe public transport, not punitive e-tolls."
Cosatu also pointed out that bus subsidies had not kept pace with inflation, resulting in a deterioration of services.
The day of action also saw calls for the banning of labour brokers - "who get rich by exploiting workers and undermining their job security."
The union federation described labour brokers as "modern-day slave owners."