The invisibility of poor people in the country, who are estimated to make up 55,5% of the population, was on display recently as David Makhura, Premier of Gauteng Province, the country’s economic heartland, and the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, aired their differences on Twitter.
The topic was the electronic tolling (known locally as e-tolls) of freeways in Gauteng. The Gauteng African National Congress (ANC), which Makhura leads, has responded to a backlash against the tolls by urging that they be removed.
The national government in which Mboweni serves, and is also led by the ANC, imposed the tolls and continues to support them, at least in principle.
So, while the spat transfixed people who believe that interesting human activity happens only on Twitter, the fact they were arguing was of no great moment: both were expressing the position of their sphere of government.
Nevertheless, the exchange was revealing – but not for the reasons which fascinated the Twitter-struck media. It showed once again how invisible poor people are in South Africa’s politics.Opposition to e-tolls
The battle against electronic tolls in Gauteng is usually portrayed as the fight of “the people” against an unjust government.
In reality, it is a revolt by car owners who don’t want to pay for the freeways on which they drive.
Buses and minibus taxis, the transport used by the poor, are exempt from the tolls. So, people who can afford to own a vehicle pay to use the freeways on which everyone drives.
This is a textbook example of progressive taxation – those who have to more pay for services so that they are available to the poor too. Owners rebel against paying for public goods around the world and so it is not surprising that car owners have mobilised against the tolls.
Nor is the fact that Makhura and the Gauteng ANC want the tolls gone – people who can afford cars are plentiful in Gauteng, and so the tolls have dented the ANC’s voter support in the province.
It’s also not surprising that the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which is in a governing alliance with the ANC, is a strong opponent of tolls: many union members own cars.
What is surprising is that opposition to e-tolls is an article of faith among organisations and people who claim to want a fairer distribution of society’s wealth: it is odd when people who claim to be fighting for the poor condemn anyone who suggests that car owners should be tolled so that poor people can use freeways without paying. If they take the side of the car owners, who speaks for the poor?
The obvious answer would surely be the government which has introduced the tolls. We should expect to hear national government explaining that e-tolls are a boon to the poor and so help to build a fairer economy.
We might also expect that, when car owners are campaigning for the tolls to be scrapped, government politicians would be mobilising support among the poor, explaining that their right to ride on the highways for [...]
It’s the start of a new month for South Africans, but they are being faced with the same old story: The cost of living is increasing, even if our wages aren’t. Municipal rates across the country are going up on Monday 1 July, and the changes will affect millions in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and many other city-dwellers.Cost of living on the rise
Of course, the term “tariff hike” has become synonymous with Eskom. Their plans to start charging residents more came to fruition on Monday as well. But they aren’t the only ones: We’re here to give you a brief overview of where municipal rates are going up, and how much more you’ll have to fork out.Municipal rates increase in Johannesburg
Increased tariffs have been introduced this week, ranging from water rates to those of refuse removal and property. Even bus companies are feeling the pinch, with Johannesburg operator Rea Vaya cranking the fees up by 7%. Despite a forecast petrol price decline in July, five previous increases in 2019 have taken their toll:Water up by 9.9%, Property rates up by 5.5%, Electricity up by 13.07%, Refuse removal up by 7% Rea Vaya bus fares up by 7%. Municipal rates increase in Cape Town:
While also feeling the pinch, the Mother City has a slightly easier time of things. Electricity rates will be up by somewhere between 8.88% – 13.37%, and the cost of getting rid of your rubbish is also on the rise. There is a temporary respite with water fees, but price hikes are still a possibility in the near future.Block 1 energy rate up by 13.37% Block 2 energy rate increases up by 8.88% Refuse collection tariffs up by 5% Solid waste tariffs up by 5% No basic fixed rate increase for water tariffs in 2019/20, but a future 9% increase has been proposed on consumptive water tariffs. Municipal rates increase in Durban
The sharpest water rate increases can be found in the eThekwini Municipality, at 14.5%. Of the “big three” cities, their electricity rates are also the highest climbers. The city has been in a bit of chaos this year, following the devastating April floods and the suspension of Mayor Zandile Gumede – turbulence which shows in the new rates:Water tariffs up by 14.5% Electricity rising by 15.01% Sanitation and refuse services up by 9.9% Other locations
We’ve covered the big three, but the picture seems to be a familiar one in all of South Africa’s metros. Things are getting costlier. Eskom had the brass neck to push for tariff hikes while they were mid-load shedding crisis back in March. Their appeal was successful, and as their website suggests, the average increase stands at 15.63%
“The National energy regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has approved a 13.87% average price increase which will be implemented on 1 April 2019 for Eskom direct customers and a 15.63% average price increase for municipalities which will be implemented on 1 July 2019.”
South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, was on Tuesday positive about the progress made in fostering ties between China and the African continent at the conclusion of the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) coordinators meeting in Beijing, China.
“There was a very significant turnout and of course the participation of China was at the highest level, including ministers of foreign affairs as well as commerce.
“Part of the successful aspect is the cementing of the idea that the forum for Africa-China cooperation has become an important platform of advancing the development cooperation between African countries, and the government and people of the Republic of China,” Pandor said.
“This cooperation is taking a wide range of forms. Linked to it is an independent definition of projects by African countries.China collaborating with Africa
“I got an interesting insight into how African countries are perceiving their collaboration with China. It seems that there is a deep appreciation of the manner in which China interfaces with African governments on their selection of projects, on the funding platforms, [and] on the nature of contract entered into,” the minister said
Pandor said she has had the opportunity to discuss issues with some of her African counterparts who were also in Beijing for the summit.
“From a number of countries, I got quite positive feedback. Clearly this relationship is thriving and countries believe and state that they are getting infrastructure that they need, from roads to bridges, to railways, carriages and to renewed airports – a wide range of infrastructure [is] being provided,” she said.
In line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, Pandor said most African countries are pushing for industrialisation and a practical implementation of the deals with China.
As part of the FOCAC coordinators’ meeting, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held respective meetings with foreign ministers from at least nine African countries this week in Beijing.
The African foreign ministers included Pandor, Palamagamba Kabudi from Tanzania, Ezechiel Nibigira from Burundi, Aurelien Agbenonci from Benin, Nhial Deng Nhial from South Sudan, Mamadou Tangara from Gambia, Joseph Malanji from Zambia, Luis Filipe Tavares from Cape Verde and Gbehzohngar Findley from Liberia.
The purpose of the Beijing meeting was to accelerate the implementation of the outcomes of the 2018 FOCAC Summit. The gathering was co-chaired by foreign ministers of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Senegal.
During the Beijing summit in 2018, it was agreed that eight key areas would be prioritised between 2019 and 2021. They include infrastructure connectivity, industrial promotion, green development, healthcare initiatives and trade facilitation between China and its African trade partners.Chinese economic and trade delegation
Last week, a Chinese economic and trade delegation, led by Ren Hongbin, assistant minister of commerce in China, consisting of 60 entrepreneurs from more than 40 major companies, signed 93 co-operation agreements with their South African counterparts during a prestigious signing ceremony held in Cape Town.
The Chinese delegation was supported by Ambassador Lin Songtian. Several South African Cabinet ministers including Pandor, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel and Thoko Didiza, Minister [...]