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S.African unions call for new strike over toll roads

South Africa’s powerful Cosatu labour federation on Tuesday called a new one-day strike to protest the start of tolls on major highways around Johannesburg.

Spokesman Patrick Craven said protests would begin from April 23 outside government transport offices, and culminate on April 30 with a national strike that would be “the mother of all protests against the act of highway robbery” in tolling.

Tolls are set to begin from April 30 on major highways around South Africa’s economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.

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.

“People power has brought down governments in North Africa, it can surely stop this assault on our living standards,” Craven said in a statement.

“Our aim is to make the tolls uncollectible and force the government… to find more equitable ways to pay for road improvements.”

The government says the fees are needed to pay for loans used to upgrade highways.

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.