Joburg toll road announcement fires up election race
South Africa's ANC government braved voter fury Wednesday to announce Johannesburgers will start paying road tolls from early next month, slap bang in the run-up to a general election.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said tolls, which apply on nearly 200 kilometres (125 miles) of roads in a province that includes Johannesburg and the nearby capital of Pretoria, would come into effect on December 3.
She said the tolls were needed to fund already paid for road upgrades to handle congestion in the sprawling Gauteng province.
"Apartheid spatial planning never envisaged a situation where Gauteng would be as populated as it is today."
The timing of the announcement -- ahead of elections expected in April and before the city's summer holiday exodus -- was an early Christmas present for the ANC's political foes.
Opposition parties and even the ANC's union allies have launched a series of protests against plans to roll out the tolls and have vowed not to buy the electronic tags.
The Democratic Alliance seized on the announcement to tell voters it would scrap the tolls if it wins next year's provincial election.
The party already controls Cape Town and the surrounding province and has bet the farm on taking Gauteng in 2014.
"It is a sad day for this province and for South Africa that the widespread public opposition to this system has been blatantly ignored by government," said Mmusi Maimane, the party's candidate for Gauteng premier.
"Whether directly or indirectly, the majority of Gauteng residents will eventually pay the cost of e-tolling. Residents who are not regular road users will feel the pinch through increased food and living expenses."
© 2013 AFP