S.Africa delays toll roads, averting national strike
South Africa's ruling party on Thursday agreed to postpone the start of highway tolls around Johannesburg, buckling under pressure from the trade unions and civil society.
Following a high-level meeting between the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the ruling African National Congress, the tolls due to begin Monday were postponed for one month.
“The leadership has collectively agreed to postpone the implementation of the e-toll collection system by a month,” said a statement from Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
The delay would allow more time to study other means of financing major improvements already made to highways around Gauteng, the tiny but rich province that includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.
Vavi also announced that Cosatu would postpone a nation-wide strike against the tolls.
In addition to the strike threat, the government is also locked in a court battle with civic groups seeking to stop the tolls.
Cosatu argues that the tolls will place an undue burden on the poor, even though the mini-bus taxis used by most South Africans will be exempt from paying.
The government says the fees are needed to pay off loans that finance the highway upgrades.
It has already dropped the proposed toll rates by 40 percent and agreed to a fees cap of 550 rands ($73/55 euros) a month for motorists.