MASS ACTION: Cosatu organised protests against e-tolls earlier this year. More marches are planned to take place on Friday.  Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
MASS ACTION: Cosatu organised protests against e-tolls earlier this year. More marches are planned to take place on Friday. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Friday it would continue with mass action, starting with marches on November 30 and closing the freeways around Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane on December 6.

The Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill was withdrawn by the African National Congress (ANC) at the National Assembly last Thursday, temporarily halting the implementation of e-tolling in Gauteng.

The bill’s provisions were important for implementing the contro versial tolling system and its withdrawal means the system will not be implemented this year. Deliberations are expected to continue in February when Parliament reconvenes.

While it is not clear why the bill was withdrawn, Cosatu’s Gauteng provincial secretary Dumisani Dakile said the bill may have been withdrawn to extend the time for public engagement which is set to officially end today. Mr Dakile said Cosatu had served the National Economic Development and Labour Council with a notice to say the mass action was legal and protected.

The Department of Transport held three public hearings this month to gather public comment, at which the majority of Gauteng residents in attendance were against e-tolling. Cosatu and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) criticised the public hearing and Cosatu called them a "farce".

On Friday, Cosatu will hold a march from Newtown to the Department of Transport, the Department of Housing and the premier’s office. In Tshwane the march will be led to the Department of Transport and the Department of Finance.

Cosatu Gauteng chairman Phutas Tseki said the withdrawal of the bill was welcomed because it could have opened up the possibility for e-tolling outside Gauteng.

"The primary purpose of the bill was to legalise e-tolling. All other matters in the bill are secondary. If you look at that particular bill it also enables Sanral to instal the same gantries in all of the other provinces," Mr Tseki said.

Cosatu urged the public to join in the mass action and also planned to hold night vigils during the opening of Parliament and legislatures in February. It promised "the mother of all battles" in March.

Opposition parties claimed a victory on Thursday with the withdrawal of the transport laws bill. Democratic Alliance transport spokesman Ian Ollis said: "Pressure from opposition parties pressed the ANC to withdraw." However, the Department of Transport said the bill was postponed.