Next step in e-toll battle - Outa

2012-04-28 23:06
Pretoria - The next step in the legal battle against e-tolling will be to secure a full record of how the R20bn decision came about, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said on Saturday.

"We are entitled to ask for the record as to what was before the [transport] minister when he made the decision," Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage told reporters in Pretoria.

"We will go to court to get a full record."

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an urgent interdict on Saturday to halt the contentious e-toll project in Gauteng.

"People are held captive by the toll roads," said Judge Bill Prinsloo, delivering judgment on Outa's application.

"I make the following order... the first respondent [SA National Roads Agency] is interdicted and restrained from levying and collecting tolls," said the judge, to an applause in the public gallery.

Court review

After being postponed five times, the e-toll system will now have to wait for the outcome of a court review.

Duvenage said it could take two to three months before the review started.

Outa's lawyer Pieter Conradie said Saturday's win was legal history.

"History was made for the people of South Africa," he said.

"Government must realise the court is there to protect people and government must realise they serve the people and not the other way round."

Duvenage said Outa appreciated the support the organisation had received.

There were times when he thought it was "far too big a mountain to climb" and take on government.

"It's incredible to have the weight of the nation on your side. I would hope government would be able to sit back and see what happened here," said Duvenage.

Financial strain

In his judgment Prinsloo said that while he realised the ruling would put financial strain on Sanral, it was clear that many South African citizens would suffer financial hardship if it went ahead.

Prinsloo said he was aware that there must be thousands, if not tens of thousands, who must use the toll roads and would suffer financially as a result.

He also bemoaned a lack of good alternative transport.

Prinsloo said he had "carefully considered" the arguments brought by all parties in the case this week.
No fewer than 19 lawyers were involved in the matter and 2 500 filed.

The judge believed that Outa had made a prima facie case for a review of the e-toll project.

Outside court, two men protesting against the tolls were sitting on deck chairs, wearing suits.

Both were holding "newspapers" and placards read: "The high price of freedom benefits who?" and "Politics of this country are like fish and chips".

Between the chairs was another poster that stated "We wouldn't kill for [President Jacob] Zuma".

Cosatu protests

The roll-out of the tolls has seen resistance and protests from several quarters, including the ruling African National Congress' tripartite alliance partner, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi this week warned, in an interview on SABC radio, that the implementation of e-tolling would have "serious repercussions at a political level".

"We are quite determined to convince them it will make no political sense at this stage to proceed with such an unpopular policy," Vavi said on Thursday morning, shortly before he went into a meeting with the ANC on the matter.

The ANC later announced that e-tolls would be delayed by another month.

It was initially scheduled to be implemented on Monday, 30 April.

Collecting costs exceeding cost of road improvement

Prinsloo said the announcement had no bearing on his judgment.

This week, National Treasury warned that halting the e-toll project would have "serious negative implications for future financing of roads and investment in public transport".

However, Outa lawyer Alistair Franklin argued that the system was unreasonable as it had disproportionate costs attached to it.

"Collecting costs are exceeding the cost of improvement [of the roads]," he told the court.

Sanral recently irked motorists further by announcing that those who did not register for e-tags on the 185km of tolled highways would have to pay a higher punitive rate.

The agency cited costs associated with recovering payment, including invoicing and debt collection, as reasons for the R1.75c punitive tariff per kilometre, compared to the standard tariff of 30c/ kilometre for registered users.

Prinsloo's judgment was widely welcomed, with both the opposition Democratic Alliance and Cosatu applauding it.

The transport department said it respected the decision but would study the ruling thoroughly to decide on the "next course of action."
- SAPA
Read more on:    outa  |  sanral  |  zwelinzima vavi  |  johannesburg  |  transport  |  tolls
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