Police had to fire stun grenades at hundreds of COSATU members that were disrupting traffic at the Marianhill Toll Plaza on Friday as they protested rising fuel prices.
Marching with the COSATU members – who had gathered at Currie’s Fountain earlier in the day – were People Against Petrol and Paraffin Price Increases (PAPPPI) representatives, including founder Visvin Reddy and deputy national convenor, bishop Timothy Ngcobo.
Earlier this month, fuel prices went up by more than R1. The 95 grade of petrol now costs a record high of R17.08 in the inland economic hub of Gauteng province and R16.49 at the coast, while the wholesale diesel price went up by R1.24 to R15.64 and R15.16 in Gauteng and at the coast respectively.
Reddy called the steep fuel increases experienced this year “ridiculous” and “inhumane”. “We are united here for the poor and the voiceless,” he said.
By noon, protestors were still arriving at the plaza and a motorcade that had left Currie’s Fountain finally arrived. The motorcade caused considerable delays as drivers made their way slowly to meet the protestors.
Protestors sang struggle songs and hoisted signs calling for an end to petrol hikes. They first blocked the Durban-bound road and then the Pietermaritzburg/Johannesburg-bound roadway, at which time police started firing stun grenades.
However, protestors remained unshaken, with COSATU provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize calling for marchers to not give in to “threats” and to “maintain the lines”.
“We have a right to be here, we are not asking them for permission, we have permission to be here, we are going to march and make sure this activity is a successful one,” said Mkhize.
He had told members of the media earlier in the day that he expected 500 vehicles to take part in the protest.
Mkhize said the N3 toll had been chosen for the mass action because the road was a national one and that rising fuel prices were a “societal and national matter”.
“We want a spot where we can send our message loud and clear.”
The union is demanding, among other things, a reduction in the fuel levy and other taxes, taxing the wealthy to subsidise the poor and that government explore the nationalisation of SASOL.
They are also demanding that the country’s VAT hike of one per cent be reversed. They have further called for exempting locally produced poultry from the VAT and other products added to the list.
African News Agency