Gauteng motorists woke up to tolled highways on Tuesday morning after the Pretoria High Court ruled on Monday that the 11th hour bid by the Freedom Front Plus to stop e-tolling was “not urgent”.
OPPOSITION NOT SILENCED
Although the system has gone live, it does not seem to be the end of the road for the anti-tolling lobbyists.
Tuesday will see at least two anti-tolling media briefings - Cosatu in Gauteng, which has been protesting against the project to “irritate politicians”, was scheduled to address the media on Tuesday.
The opposition Democratic Alliance also promised to unveil the “next phase” of the political party's anti-tolls campaign on Tuesday.
Church leaders vowed on Monday that they would not pay toll fees, and called on others to do the same.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) continued to urge motorists to refrain from buying e-tags.
LAST MINUTE COURT BID FAILS
On Monday the Toll Gate Action Group, led by the FF+, had filed an urgent application to set aside the implementation of e-tolling. The group also wanted the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Act – the legislation that allows Sanral to collect e-tolls – to be declared unconstitutional.
But Judge Maria Jansen struck the matter off the roll, saying the application was not urgent and that the applicant failed to justify the urgency of the matter.
Judge Jansen said she was bound by an earlier Constitutional Court judgement that courts should refrain from entering the exclusive terrain of the executive and legislative branches of government, unless the intrusion was mandated by the constitution.
NO PROPER CASE
“The applicant sought wide-reaching relief but failed to make a proper case,” said Judge Jansen.
She struck the matter off the roll, saying it should be heard when all parties had been given a chance to file affidavits, and that the court should also be given a chance to adjudicate it properly.
Frans du Plessis, representing the applicant, had argued that the implementation of e-tolling be postponed pending the outcome of the hearing into the constitutionality of the legislation.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters was aware of the application when she announced that e-tolling would begin today, he said.
He argued that allowing Sanral to launch e-tolling based on flawed legislation would constitute an erosion of the rule of law and hamper the rights of the public to turn to the courts on constitutional matters.
However, counsel for Sanral David Unterhalter said “the world would not come to an end because of e-tolling. All that is going to happen is people are going to pay tolls”.
Jeremy Gauntlett, acting for the president and the ministers of Transport and Finance, described the application as a “deliberate strategy to get us to court over a barrel and an attempt to delay the implementation of e-tolling”.
He said: “There comes a time when ‘genoeg is genoeg’ (enough is enough). Sanral has said for ages that it was ready to implement the system. You don’t sit with your finger in the ear and wait until the planning has been completed and make an urgent application against that decision.”
After the judgment, FF+ MP Anton Alberts said they would absorb what happened and decide on a way forward.
Alberts said the party was concerned that the merits of the case had not been heard. “If it was heard, we know the opposition would not have a case,” he added.
Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli, who congratulated his legal team, said there would be glitches as with all new systems, but they expected the first day of e-tolling to go smoothly. Regarding the judg-ment, Alli noted that four court rulings had gone the way of Sanral since the e-tolling saga started.
Phillip van Staden, leader of the FF+ in Pretoria, said the ruling marked a sad day for taxpayers, as it meant justice would not be served.
Van Staden, who had led a group of protesters outside the court throughout the morning, said he would not comply with the e-toll laws. “They can come and arrest me if they want to,” he said.
Story by: Pretoria News & Sapa