E-toll judgment reserved

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etoll sep 21

INLSA

Picture: Mujahid Safodien

Gauteng motorists will only know later what the fate of the Gauteng e-tolling system will be, after the High Court in Pretoria reserved judgment on the matter on Wednesday.

“I don't have to say this, but judgment is reserved,” Judge Louis Vorster said.

“I don't want to keep the public waiting and will be as expeditious as possible, but I don't want to tie myself down to a specific date.”

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) wanted the court to review and set aside the SA National Roads Agency Limited's (Sanral) decision to declare sections of Gauteng's freeways as toll roads.

Outa accused Sanral of having deliberately kept the public in the dark and being dishonest about the implementation of tolls in Gauteng.

David Unterhalter SC, for Sanral, rejected the claim as reckless. Outa had to look at the facts of the case and the affidavits submitted by Sanral, the transport department and Treasury. Outa should present facts to back up its “extraordinary deception”.

“There are no facts that support the claim of dishonesty,” Unterhalter argued.

“It (the claim) is reckless, it is gratuitous... To raise dishonesty in this way is to colour the facts a certain way.”

The allegation that Sanral had “cut corners” to meet the 2010 Soccer World Cup deadline was not true.

Outa lawyer Mike Maritz argued that e-tolling should be set aside because there had been no thorough public consultation.

“E-tolling should be set aside until Sanral can come up with a proper proposal that can work, and then invite the public to comment,” Maritz said in his closing argument.

During the three days, Sanral, the transport department and Treasury had argued that the application should be dismissed.

Maritz said responses to his submission were sarcastic.

Jeremy Gauntlett SC, for the Treasury, argued that Outa's application was based on a sham.

“The sham is vital to their new case. They argue that they should be excused for their delay.”

Gauntlett echoed arguments made on Tuesday by Unterhalter that all relevant civil society organisations representing Gauteng motorists had known about e-tolling and the user-pays principle, but had done nothing until the tariffs were introduced.

Unterhalter said these organisations stood by for years while construction was in progress.

On Wednesday, Gauntlett argued that civil society waited until after roadworks had been completed to raise objections.

“Civil society is a watchdog, but it must get out of the kennel and bark,” he said.

“(The application) is their attempt to delay the inevitable.”

He said Outa had gone to court without a properly-argued case.

Maritz said Sanral had had “no real intention” to hold proper public consultations.

Vincent Maleka SC, for the transport department, told the court roads in Gauteng had been upgraded, that the public had supported the upgrades and that it could not be reversed.

On Tuesday morning, Unterhalter contended that Outa changed its submissions in September after the Constitutional Court overturned an interim order putting the Gauteng e-tolling project on hold.

The Constitutional Court found the High Court in Pretoria had not considered the separation of powers between the high court and the executive.

On April 28, the high court granted the interdict to Outa, ruling that a full review needed to be carried out before e-tolling could be put into effect.

The interdict prevented Sanral from levying or collecting e-tolls pending the outcome of the review. - Sapa


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