Last minute attempts to stop e-tolling


Civil society, Cosatu and the Democratic Alliance are pulling out all the stops this week in last minute attempts to have the controversial e-tolling system scrapped.

Court applications have been filed by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and Afrikaner lobby group AfriForum. The Democratic Alliance and the Congress of SA Trade Unions planned to protest in the streets.

Outa would be in the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday to seek an urgent interdict to stop the launch of the e-tolling system on April 30.

"This is so as to give judges time to review arguments in the matter and then make a decision on whether to have the system outlawed or not," the alliance's chairman Wayne Duvenhage told Sapa on Monday.

"The entire e-tolling process is very complex and expensive, and it's going to be costly to manage."

The issue of summonses was also a key point of Outa's argument. Duvenhage said the implementation of e-tolling would put added pressure on an already strained criminal justice system, as the number of monthly summonses sent to motorists who didn't pay their toll fees would increase "considerably".

"More than 10 percent, even 15 percent of road users would be non-compliant and this will lead to a huge amount of summonses. There will be lots of non-compliance. You have got to ask yourself if there is an easier way to pay for the roads."

Outa estimated that more than a million summonses would be issued per month.

The SA National Roads Agency Limited's (Sanral) argument, according to the Beeld, was that it would suffer a loss of income if the levying of tolls was delayed, and that it would be forced to renege on its agreement with Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), which Sanral had contracted to collect the tolls.

The National Treasury has also applied for leave to intervene in the case.

"There would be serious negative implications for future financing of roads and investment in public transport, were Sanral to be interdicted from implementing the toll collection system. National Treasury... will argue that the interdict should be denied."

The case was important because it affected the state's ability to finance road infrastructure, it said. The government had contributed R5.75 billion to the project so that user toll fees could be lower.

The DA, meanwhile, planned to show its support to Outa by protesting outside the courthouse on Tuesday from 10am.

Spokeswoman Kelly Miller said its members would be out in full force, and called on the public and other organisations to join them.

Trade union federation Cosatu, which has a membership of two million, was planning countrywide mass protests. A protest was planned at Sanral's offices on Wednesday, Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said.

"The marches will culminate next Monday [the day of the implementation] and there will be big marches in all main city centres," he said.

"We will be also be watching very closely the developments at court tomorrow. We have appointed legal representatives to serve as observers at the court."

The union federation said it had not ruled out taking its own legal action against Sanral.

"We may take action if certain issues have not been resolved, but a lot will depend on the outcome of the proceedings tomorrow," said Craven.

The SA Municipal Workers' Union said its members would participate in all of Cosatu's protests countrywide.

"Cosatu strongly believes that the pressure of the masses is crucial to forcing government to back down on this blatant extortion," spokesman Tahir Sema said.

"Our aim is to make the tolls uncollectible and force the government and Sanral to find more equitable ways to pay for road improvements."

AfriForum, meanwhile, had instructed its lawyers to urgently prepare court papers to oppose a decision by Sanral to levy a tariff of R1.75/km on road users who had not registered for e-tolling.

Chief executive officer Kallie Kriel urged the public not to purchase e-tags until the outcome of the legal action.

Kriel said the Competition Act clearly stipulated, in article 8(a), that no dominant company was allowed to abuse its position to levy excessive tariffs.

"If enough motorists do not register in protest against the system, it will force Sanral to reconsider e-tolling as a non-cost effective collection mechanism," said Kriel.

Sanral on Monday took out full-page newspaper advertisements showing a map of the tolled roads. The system affects a 185km stretch of the N1, N3, N12 and R21 around Johannesburg and Tshwane.

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