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Niq Mhlongo

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Deliver us from E-tolls Evil

When I was still a student at Wits University (1994-1997) I used to take part in student protests. I was among those angry students who used to disrupt classes with stinking dustbins that we emptied inside the Central Block lecture theatres. My voice was one of the loudest ones as we sang, Ugly Charlton, Ugly Charlton! We are here far from home! We will hate you and despise you for the things you’ve done to us!’ against our Vice Chancellor, Bob Charlton outside the Great Hall stairs and Senate House corridors.
Most, if not all of our protests were financial complaints in nature, and the most affected were black students. I felt that I had a duty to protest against the increasing tuition fees, accommodation fees, and a rise in our monthly allowances and so on. I believed that I shared some vulnerability and understanding with those fellow poor black students who were being excluded on financial grounds.
Our motto was simple: ‘never ever go to bed at night knowing that there was something you could have done during the day to strike a blow against injustices that affect you. I fondly remember the camaraderie that we had as the poor and affected students, and I have never stopped feeling I was part of that tribe.
That was then, and I never thought I would find myself fired up and persuaded to fight against injustice again until this year. The way in which the ruling party has disregarded the will of the people and introduced the E-tolling system on Gauteng’s freeways is my big issue this year. To voice my disapproval, I have been joining different political parties and organizations on the street in protest against E-tolls.
On the 27th of September, I found myself amongst the few DA supporters outside the SANRAL offices in Modderfontein on the East Rand protesting against the E-tolling system on Gauteng’s freeways. I painfully found myself singing the slogan vote against e-tolls in 2014, against the party that I had consistently voted for since 1994. The biggest blow against the wishes of the people was when the supreme court of appeal recently ruled against the Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) on the 9th of October.
On the 12th of October I joined the COSATU drive-slow protest against the E-tolls in Pretoria CBD. This past Friday, on the 1st of November, I joined the march organized by the EFF against the E-tolls. I listened earnestly as Julius Malema encouraged his supporters ‘not to buy the E-tags and to always wear a red beret as a substitute for buying the e-tag’. I laughed with his supporters when Malema told them ‘to show a red beret when the road traffic officers ask for an E-tag’. As I write this, there will be a march organized by COSATU on the 12th of November and I’m certainly joining it.
There are several reasons why I have decided to fight against the unjust E-tolls. The most important motive is that they sadly remind me of the now defunct Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953. This notorious apartheid Act ‘racially allowed public premises, vehicles, and services, to be segregated by race even if facilities were not made available to all races’.
In a nutshell, the best facilities were reserved for whites, while those for other races were inferior. I’m of the opinion that both the Act and E-tolls are segregationist measures to enforce the dominance of one group over another. The only difference is that the Act was built on racial discrimination, and happened during the apartheid era; whereas the E-tolls are based on class discrimination and occur in the post-apartheid ANC era.
On one hand, the Act confined black people to live in particular areas designated to them, and also forbade them from enjoying other privileges reserved for white people. For example, black people were restricted from entering certain areas without the permit or dom-passes. In the past, you had to have a signature of your tribal chief, granting you permission to leave your tribal homeland or district.
On the other hand, E-tolls force the poor to pay for the use of what used to be free, by making it a criminal offence to be found driving on the freeway without an e-tag. By privatizing the roads with E-tolls, the ANC led government is imposing a financial burden on the poor people and perpetuating a rift between the haves, and the have nots.
Personally, for me E-toll means that I have to pay money to go and visit my friends and relatives in Pretoria. I feeling is like being betrayed by the very same woman I love; in this case, the ANC. I know that they are exempting the public transport users from paying the e-tolls; but this is nearly non functional. It is unlike Europe and America where there isa good underground transport system that is always reliable and on time. The truth is that the ANC has to fix this before it forces the implementation of the E-tolls.
On a positive note, E-tolls have unified Gauteng people. We are fighting it in the same spirit as we fought what we thought were unjust laws and what was unjust at Wits University, as well as The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953. I see E-tolls as the post-apartheid’s apartheid law.


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    January 6th, 2014 @08:55 #

    This is a take on e-tolls I hadn't heard before, Niq - thanks for posting it.


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