Outa surprised by signing of e-toll bill

By Drum Digital
26 September 2013

It was unwise of President Jacob Zuma to sign the e-tolling bill into law, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said.

It was unwise of President Jacob Zuma to sign the e-tolling bill into law, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said on Thursday.

"Outa is surprised at this decision, bearing in mind that recent reports indicate the presidency was going to take some time to consider the questions relating to the correct tagging of the bill before signing it into law," chairman Wayne Duvenage said in a statement.

Outa was awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court of Appeal's (SCA) ruling on its appeal against e-tolling.

It also noted a recent recommendation by the presidential commission reviewing state-owned entities that funding for social infrastructure, including roads, should rely more on taxation rather than the "user pay" principle.

On Wednesday, SCA Judge Fritz Brand reserved judgment on whether the e-tolling of Gauteng's freeways should be reviewed.

The appeal was brought by Outa in its legal challenge against the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the transport minister and the national Treasury.

On the same day it was announced that Zuma signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law -- paving the way for e-tolling.

Duvenage said Zuma signing the bill into law meant Sanral could proceed with launching e-tolling in Gauteng.

The company has previously claimed it was ready to roll out in two weeks.

"They would be wise to await the outcome of the Supreme Court's ruling on Outa's appeal in the next few weeks," he said.

"But even if that rules in their favour, Sanral's biggest hurdle has yet to come, that being the public's buy-in and acceptance of its cumbersome and irrational plan."

Duvenage cited Sanral not conducting a meaningful public engagement process, public awareness of European-based company Kapsch TrafficCom profiting from the system, and alleged construction industry collusion causing roads to cost more than they should have. "Government would be wise to reconsider the merits of this unworkable and unpopular scheme. We have an election looming. Let the people decide," Duvenage said. The Democratic Alliance said on Thursday that it would continue to oppose e-tolling. "The DA urges the public not to despair now that the president has chosen to ignore the immense opposition to tolling," spokesman Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.

"We will take our opposition to tolls to the streets, and we will explore every possible angle to fight it here in Gauteng, the courts and in Parliament."

The DA, among other organisations and individuals, helped fund Outa's appeal.

"But the public must know that the surest way to get rid of e-tolls for good is through the ballot box," Maimane said.

E-tolls have been also been rejected by the Congress of SA Trade Unions.

In April 2012, the High Court in Pretoria granted Outa an interdict approving a full judicial review before electronic tolling could be put into effect. The interdict prevented Sanral from levying or collecting e-tolls, pending the outcome of a review. Sanral and the Treasury appealed the court order. In September last year, the Constitutional Court set aside the interim order, and in December, the High Court in Pretoria dismissed the application. The court granted Outa leave on January 25 this year to take the matter to the SCA in Bloemfontein.

-by Sapa

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