DA leader Mmusi Maimane has called for an urgent reduction in fuel levies as petrol prices reach record highs across South Africa.

The opposition leader also called for citizens to join the party in a mass protest outside National Treasury’s offices at the end of the month.

Speaking at a press briefing alongside members of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) in Tshwane on Tuesday‚ Maimane said “exorbitant” fuel levies could not be justified.

“When Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president‚ the price of petrol per litre was R14.12. It now costs over R16 per litre to refuel your vehicle with 95-octane unleaded petrol in Gauteng. This equates to‚ on average‚ almost R100 more every time you fill your tank. Every cent of this massive increase is absorbed by ordinary South Africans‚ either directly through increased transport costs‚ or indirectly by the resulting rising food prices‚” he said.

“And it is the poor who bear the brunt of this onslaught as they spend a disproportionately large amount of their income on food and transport. This is simply not sustainable. Something has to give. Poor South Africans are already stretched to breaking point by a stagnant economy and spiralling unemployment‚ and there is no sign of this improving any time soon.”

About 33% of the fuel price is made up of two levies: the general fuel levy and the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy. Currently levies and duties account for R5.30 of every litre of 95-octane petrol‚ or R265 of every 50-litre fuel tank.

“When you factor in the staggering mismanagement and corruption at the RAF‚ these exorbitant levies simply cannot be justified. Last year alone the RAF made a loss of R30-billion – the biggest loss of any state-owned entity – and they have been running at a deficit for five consecutive years. It is unconscionable that government expects poor South Africans to make up this massive shortfall‚” he said.

Maimane said the government should reduce the RAF and general fuel levies by R1 per litre; table an urgent debate in Parliament to consider the current structure of the levies; and place the RAF under independent and external administration.

“We call on all South Africans to join us in collective mass protest outside National Treasury’s offices in Tshwane on Tuesday the 31st of July at 10am where we will be calling for an immediate reduction in the fuel levies. If enough people add their voices‚ they won’t be able to ignore us. We invite NGOs‚ political parties‚ religious bodies‚ taxi associations‚ civil society organisations‚ and ordinary South Africans to join this protest‚” he said.