BRIDGE BRIGADE:  OUTA’s Bridge Brigade team at the last e-tolls protest on the Le Roux Avenue bridge over the N1, Midrand, on the morning of 26 October 2022, hours before Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced the end of e-tolls in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. 

Left to right: Lindokuhle Mazibuko; Ali Gule; Mfanimpela Mazibuko; Sibusiso Mchunu and Sibusiso Ngcobo.

Picture by Jonathon Rees

From opposing e-tolls, fuel levies, AARTO and state capture to defending whistleblowers and democracy: A decade of OUTA Bridge Brigade protests

Ali Gule and his team have been holding OUTA protests on the bridges over Gauteng freeways for 10 years.

If you drive on Gauteng’s freeways, you have probably seen our Bridge Brigade team on the bridges, with banners and flags.

The protests against the e-tolls started when OUTA was formed in 2012 and continued since then. As OUTA took on more varied work over the years, the protests have included banners for other campaigns, such as opposing fuel levy increases, opposing the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), calling for action against state capture perpetrators, opposing new nuclear power, defending whistleblowers and defending our democracy. Some protests are held at other venues, but most are on the Gauteng freeway bridges.

During 2022 alone, the team has held 97 protests, with 85 of those on the freeway bridges. Other protests included calling for electoral reform at the parliamentary public hearings, calling for transparency in the National Nuclear Regulator in Cape Town, opposing wasteful spending outside Parliament, defending whistleblowers outside Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital and outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court where the men accused of killing Babita Deokaran appeared on murder charges, calling for Sasol’s prosecution on environmental charges outside the Secunda Magistrate’s Court, and calling for state capture prosecutions at the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court when former SAPS Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane appeared on corruption and money-laundering charges, and at the Palm Ridge Specialised Crime Court when former Transnet executives Brian Molefe, Anoj Singh and Siyabonga Gama appeared on corruption charges relating to Transnet’s 1064 locomotives contract.

Gule has worked for OUTA for 11 years, since the very start, and led the bridge protests since the first one in March 2012. You may have seen him at protests: he’s the man with the “Not Captured” hat.

Gule has faced off against the police several times, including the VIP protection unit who didn’t like their banner opposing state capture, and police outside Parliament who didn’t like the Orange Overalls protest. In Pretoria, private security tried to chase them away from their state capture protest outside the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants which was holding a disciplinary hearing against Anoj Singh arising from an OUTA complaint: “We resisted, we came back, because we were on the pavement which belongs to the local authority. We’ve got a right to protest,” says Gule, whose favourite OUTA banner is “The people’s power is stronger than the people in power”.

There are part-time Bridge Brigade team members who join Ali, all from Tsakane in Ekurhuleni. They are: Sibusiso Mchunu, Sibusiso Ngcobo, Lindokuhle Mazibuko, Mfanimpela Mazibuko (they’re not related), Vuyisile Ggadu and Ngcebo Buthelezi.

Sibusiso Mchunu has been with the team for four years.

Mchunu is passionate about music and theatre – “I want to be the next Black Coffee” – and is involved in arts initiatives aimed at keeping youth off the streets. “My biggest dream is to have a rehabilitation centre,” says Mchunu. 

Sibusiso Ngcobo has been in the team for a year. When he’s not on the bridges, he’s borrowing a camera and taking photos at events, weddings and parties, and he’s an aspiring DJ. He’d love to run an arts school.

Mchunu and Ngcobo have together set up Blaque Jungle Productions for producing digital music (they have a YouTube channel).

Lindokuhle Mazibuko has been with the team for five years. He’s a keen soccer player in Tsakane for TSG team, is an avid computer gamer and likes fixing things – “I’m good with my hands and I’m a fast learner” – but he’d love to own his own gaming shop.

Mfanimpela Mazibuko (not related to Lindokuhle) has been with the team for a year. He finished grade 12 and works with his mother selling food in the street outside Tsakane mall. “I’m doing all the cooking, I’m a good chef,” he says. He’s a computer gamer and also plays in the TSG soccer team: “We are third on the log”. His dream is to see a college in Tsakane, which doesn’t have one. 

The team loves the motorists’ reaction to their protests, who hoot, wave, show fists, flash their lights and sometimes take photos of the team. “They sign that they are with us. My favourite is when they scream out of the windows. They recognise us and they know it’s OUTA,” says Gule.

He’s watched blue-light convoys speeding beneath the bridges. “They see what we are doing.”

The team’s favourite bridges are Cydonia Road bridge over the N3 in Bedfordview and the Main Road bridge over the N1 in Fourways. “They are the loudest,” says Gule. They get the best reaction to the banners saying “We will never pay e-tolls” and “Say NO to fuel levy increases”.

Our Bridge Brigade are out on the bridges two or three times a week. If you see them, wave or hoot to show your support. Better still, stop and join them. They are fighting for you.