– It has as target the ‘right’ market (middle class)
It is a literally a day before we are told the intermittent straddling bright blue light gantries of the Gauteng Freeway Network will switch on in clicking number plates both tagged or not and registering SANRAL’s first income from our Gauteng improved freeways.
This highly controversial and protracted process that had visited many if not all hierarchical representations of courts in SA is finally a reality and it appears there is nothing that we as Gauteng freeway drivers can do.
Notwithstanding a last ditch solitary attempt from perhaps the most insignificant and less representative political party the Freedom Front, in the next 24 hours vehicles either will snarl up in search of alternative roads or will dare the freeways with their e-tags or like me without a tag.
It is not law that one should have a tag, at this stage SANRAL confirms that over 735000 vehicles have registered for their e-tags. A dissecting of what makes up the figure remains a conspicuous mystery; therefore, I am not sure, how these numbers are interpreted how many of these constitute actual Public or private vehicles.
What SANRAL concedes is that since the announcement of the date of inception about 3 weeks ago approximately 26000 more e-tags were registered.
The reality is that the majority of Gauteng freeway users remain unregistered even at this late stage. This remains reflective of a campaign against such tolling though not uniformed in organizational setting but nevertheless a campaign.
The e-toll process and implementation has invited a crossbreed of activists against it, these straddle across all political formations and structures with diverse opposing ideological cloaks yet common in its vexed resistance of what remains considered an enforced exercise. We have seen a very vocal in legal pursuit OUTA, who literally bankrupted itself in its pursuit of declaring the origin and implementation farcical unjust and insensitive. OUTA was not alone in a proverbial fight that visited various court structures. The DA committed resources of R1million to support an OUTA which had its own backlash and COSATU had their go- slows which really had no effect.
It has pitched tripartite alliance members against each other and there remains a simmering tension of uneasiness on its implementation with COSATU’s official position that which remains opposed to the implementation of the E-Tolls system. Yet even that tension is eclipsed by other political dimensions unfolding in Tripartite and Organised labour context rendering the E-Tool saga a peripheral issue in the greater scheme of things.
Essentially e-tolling Gauteng road infrastructure comes inspired by a reality that SANRAL in view of its mandate of maintaining and redeveloping road infrastructure had to raise a running loan of R20bn to upgrade the former freeway road network. Therefore, at a central level the issue remains the servicing of this growing loan.
A variety of options had been proposed by those who claim against the implementation of an e-tolling system as proposed. The contentions articulate at least three spheres legal, technical-logistical, and economic paradigms.
From a legal perspective, the Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of Government for having a mandate and for complying with its mandate in regulatory context.
From a technical-logistical context, those who oppose its implementation have consistently argued it an impractical system or method thus hoping that when the impracticality of such is shown legitimate reason prevails to let it slide in search of alternate means to deal with the economic challenge of a SANRAL debt.
Thus, we arrive at the aspect of the economic reality of implementation for Gautengers who already is pulling hard and feeling the pinch. The claims remain that any due user of the gantry lit roads will part with an approximate extra R500 per month from his/her disposable income.
The counter claim is that the actual poor is absolved from this new form of taxation only because they use public transportation and such modes of transport are exempted from charge of road use.
This brings us to what is considered the middle class who is required to foot the bill not because they have the resources but because the middle class of varying degrees use the roads and therefore in pretence of economic presence in a colloquial sense can be said -can handle it.
Thus, the e-toll in implementation is essentially a middle class targeted aimed or propelled implementation. According to sources the modern usage of the term “middle class,” however, dates to the 1913 UK Registrar-General’s report, in which the statistician T.H.C. Stevenson identified the middle class as that falling between the upper class and the working class. Included as belonging to the middle class are professionals, managers, and senior civil servants. The chief defining characteristic of membership in the middle class is possession of significant human capital.
My question thus can this middle class however defined, however conflated and however understood or misunderstood raise its hand and in solitary revolution of saying not in our name or at our expense!
In most societies, the middle class cannot be defined in a uniform almost singular power block sense. The interests of the middle class are often varying since it is not constricted in a basic as in the case of the poor. It is important to note that within capitalism, “middle class” initially referred to the bourgeoisie and the petite bourgeoisie. However, with the impoverisation and proletarianisation of much of the petite bourgeois world, and the growth of finance capitalism, “middle class” came to refer to the combination of the labour aristocracy, the professionals, and the white-collar workers.
The middle class therefore can never be a unitary political force because often it includes civil servants who earn their income from working for the state, unlike the upper class or super-rich and the working class or the very poor. Whereas the rich can raise their displeasure in redefining economies to get the point across. Whereas the rich can collapse and recreate sectors and the poor can mobilize ad drum up support for its cause, the middle class simply do not have that luxury.
Middle class societies ensemble a conflation of individualism yet not an individualism that can stand-alone. However, an individualism of pretence because they remain the prime consumers of products and services they mostly if not always often have no control over.
Middle class groups tend to suffer of a sense of unnatural competition less understood in entrepreneurial flair or paradigm but in presence associated identities. Identities in which the competing interests often come in a punitive sense translated to assets they barely can but must afford albeit for status.
The middle class therefore cannot lead revolutions to threat or actualise change because they are products of an economic and political power system in which its aspiration remains to one day to emulate the upper class and equally never in future be associated with that which is defined worker class or poor.
The dialectical tension of the dream (wealth) and the nightmare (poverty) renders them in transit of pretence. The cross-paradigms of middle class lends itself a to a further rupture of any sensible agreement of cause and purpose, for there exist no one singular middle class but reflections of middle classes that never can be teamed in pursuit of a common agenda.
Therefore, the e-toll implementation regardless to how it is protested by a middle class on legitimate tentacles of consideration will occur because the right market was targeted by those who sought to implement a system we all may oppose.
By removing the poor from the debate in absolving them from this taxation, the implementation from a risk perspective has a much greater success. If the poor therefore decides to enter the rally against it, it would be from a pure sentimental solidarity issue and not a decisive and experiential reality therefore momentarily and lacking in depth.
The E- toll implementation therefore will see a middle class complying much sooner than is expected when a litany of pressures and threats of renewal of vehicle license and all other forms of individual pressure kicks in.
I guess we all who pretend a middle class regardless of where in the strata of such middle class we may find ourselves will soon get our e-tags because the middle class is a class of individuals who always finds a way to make what they have stretch even if it means more debt however.
Thus, the government scores full marks for targeting the right class group. The same who will pay that R20bn of in less than 6 months of 2014 leaving government or SANRAL to cream it in eternity. We all know our children and their children will pay forever only because they are the middle-soft belly- class who never will be able to stage a revolution, caught up in a make belief of progress when we are indebted and barely can afford what we have.
The middle class is really poor, but never will associate with that “insulting” claim and therefore plodding along as first consumers, greater pretenders in an aspiration of migration to better when better remains the elusive reality.
For now get your e-tag and quit pretending you or I can mobilize a revolution for that is a myth for as long as we are associated with ‘middle class tag!