JOHANNESBURG - Saturday saw one of the largest drive-slows since the first e-toll protest in May of last year as bikers and motorists took to the streets to make their voices heard.
The e-toll public protest kicked off from Portuguese Hall restaurant in Turffontein on Saturday morning, headed by a procession of nearly 2,500 bikers. Following were approximately 2,000 cars. The drive-slow spanned over 27 kilometres in length.
eNCA spoke to two of the organisers, both of whom said that the turnout was phenomenal.
Rob Hutchinson, from OUTA, commented, “After our #TagFree Facebook campaign last week, where over 230,000 people changed their status to show support, the turnout this morning was overwhelming. The resistance is growing.”
But despite this protest’s permits and a green light from the local law enforcement agencies, there were altercations with some JMPD officers. According to James Sleigh, one the founders of Bikers Against e-tolls, the morning began with a bit of a rough start when senior officers from the JMPD became antagonistic.
“We never have issues with any of the junior officers,” said Sleigh. “If anything, they are helpful and cooperative with our events.”
However, the protest permit was only for 300 vehicles and when masses of local motorists arrived at Portuguese Hall there were a few altercations with officers.
“One of our fellow riders was grabbed by the throat by a senior [JMPD] officer and a cop drove over another person’s foot in the chaos,” said Sleigh. “It is this kind of thing that makes me now question what happens at other protests where civilians are harmed by police”.
Sleigh continued by stating that depending on the outcome of the current court case with (Sanral spokesperson) Vusi Mona, they intend to open a class action suit against Sanral, to investigate the "perpetrators" that signed off on the e-toll project.
All along the N12 (Western Bypass) and the N3, the traffic came to an absolute standstill for almost six hours, but the energy was tangible. Showing their frustration by pulling the middle finger as they passed under each gantry, people from all walks of life showed their defiance to the e-tolling system.
“The level of anger from the citizens is growing and these are not people who come from a culture of rioting and protesting, but we are now taking a stand. We will not be economically oppressed,” concluded Sleigh.