South African church leaders have expressed concern that if e-tolling goes ahead, violence could result.
In a press conference held on Thursday following the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment in favour of e-tolling, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, church leaders and the QuadPara Association of SA said it was now up to society if they wanted to express their opposition to e-tolls.
Outa said it believed it had a good argument to appeal against the SCA judgment, but the organisation said its main concern with taking the case to the Constitutional Court was that it did not have enough funds.
So it will make a decision on which direction to take only after a meeting of its board on Monday 14 October.
Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said the alliance found it astonishing that the appeal court’s judgment refused to consider and decide on the unlawfulness of e-tolling, but rather focused on technicalities: that there had been too long a delay in challenging the system.
“The merits have not been decided on.”
“In short, the SCA has said it is too late, and has closed its eyes to the fact that e-tolling may be unlawful,” Duvenage said.
Outa said that what this approach meant was that road users still had no clarity on the lawfulness of e-tolling. The judgment meant that it remained open to any citizen to lawfully decide not to pay e-tolls and defend their prosecution for failure to pay e-tolls on the basis that the toll declarations and the approval of e-tolling by the minister of transport was unlawful.
“It is, of course, bitterly disappointing that the SCA adopted the course it did,” the alliance said.
Outa said it had looked to the courts to protect the public, and the courts had failed them.
Outa added that through contributions they had raised 90 percent of the funds needed, but were short of R1.5 million and would need another R1.5 million in order to appeal.
Their other option was to cease further litigation and support the public in its opposition to e-tolling outside of the courts.
Qasa chief executive Ari Seirlis said the mobility and sight impaired did not own cars, but had to rely on others for lifts as public transport was inaccessible for them.
“Because we don’t own cars, there is no exemption for us.“
“With e-tolling commencing, we will now truly become paralysed. Most of us rely on a grant. All this will do is create more poverty for people with disabilities,” Seirlis said.
Several church bodies, including the South African Council of Churches, said they had been consulting with the government about their concerns about e-tolling.
They raised concern about the impact of e-tolling on the poor; that the public remained unconvinced about the integrity of the processes; and there was a widespread perception that the handling of this issue by the government and Sanral has been “insensitive and heavy-handed”.
“As church leaders, we are concerned that forcing the e-tolling system upon Gauteng could lead to open conflict between motorists, toll operators and agents of law and order.
“We cannot fail to warn about possible conflict and even violence, which, given the prevalence of antagonistic ways of resolving our differences, could easily ensue,” the church leaders said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the South African National Roads Agency Limited welcomed the SCA ruling. Sanral boss Nazir Alli said he thought it was regrettable that an infrastructural matter had been politicised.
“My appeal to everyone is, let us join hands and move on. We have infrastructure to build, but more critically, a country to build,” Alli said. - The Star