Judgment ‘soon’ in e-tolling case

2012-11-28 17:29

The three-day court challenge of e-tolling has ended but Gauteng motorists will not have to wait long to hear the fate of e-tolling as Judge Louis Vorster promised to deliver judgment “soon”.

Reserving judgment, Vorster said he understood the urgency of the matter and would not waste time.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has asked the North Gauteng High Court to not allow executive decisions to circumvent the Constitution and the rule of law.

During the hearing for a judicial review of e-tolling, the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) argued that the decision to toll was taken by the government, which was merely exercising its public power and that the courts should not entertain legal action to circumvent executive decisions.

But OUTA argues that Treasury has conceded that a notice issued by Sanral to the public about the intention to declare the roads toll routes was “imperfect” and has asked the court to set aside the decision.

Treasury’s lawyer, Jeremy Gauntlett SC, however, rejected the claims.

Earlier in the day, lawyers from all parties, including the department of transport, Treasury and Sanral defended the public consultation process as “genuinely” undertaken to inform the public.

This was after OUTA argued that government “deliberately” concealed information that the roads had been declared toll roads to avoid a public outcry before the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

OUTA’s lawyer, Mike Maritz SC, told the court there was no way anybody could have known that the upgraded roads would be tolled because Sanral and government did everything to hide relevant information from the public.

Maritz has spent the last two days trying to prove to the court that the public notifications and consultation by Sanral and government did not satisfy the requirements of administrative justice.

But Treasury lawyer David Unterhalter threatened to seek punitive damages from Maritz personally or his clients, the Automobile Association, Road Freight Association and the SA Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, which are the organisations making up OUTA.

Unterhalter demanded that Maritz substantiate with evidence his “defamatory” allegations that Sanral and government had concealed crucial information from the public, particularly that the roads had been declared toll roads.

But Maritz refused, saying he and OUTA would not be “intimidated”.

Maritz said their accusations about the concealment of information were “based on inferences that we have drawn (based) on the evidence that the public notice by Sanral was sterile”.

Cosatu in Gauteng has said it would continue with its planned mass action against the e-tolling system on Friday.

The marches will take place in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

- City Press

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