By Staff Reporter and Sapa
On the same day as the Supreme Court of Appeal was hearing argument in an attempt by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance to stop e-tolling in Gauteng, President Jacob Zuma announced he had signed into law the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, in effect paving the way for e-tolling.
Spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Tuesday: “In effect, the act will provide more effectively for the collection of tolls and amend the Cross-Border Road Transport Act, to empower the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency to collect toll on behalf of Sanral.”
The law in effect gives the South African National Roads Agency Limited the nod to introduce e-tolling on Gauteng’s freeways.
The signing came on the same day as the Supreme Court of Appeal was hearing argument in the attempt by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance to stop e-tolling in Gauteng.
The court was told legislation allowed Sanral to explore options other than tolling to fund Gauteng’s freeways. It also heard that Sanral should, therefore, have kept an open mind about the matter, despite the cabinet’s approval of electronic tolling.
“Even bound by the cabinet decision, they had to follow the procedures of the act.”
Mike Maritz, SC, for Outa, argued that the Sanral Act allowed Sanral to explore other funding options. Sanral should have considered this and should not have been bound by the cabinet’s decision that the project be funded through e-tolling.
The High Court in Pretoria had granted Outa leave to appeal against a judgment, handed down in December, dismissing its bid to have the e-tolls scrapped.
Judge Fritz Brand asked whether Sanral should have ignored the cabinet’s decision.
Maritz said Sanral should have kept an open mind and taken all options into consideration.
David Unterhalter, SC, for Sanral, submitted that the agency had acted within the government’s developmental policy, which was set out before the cabinet’s decision to continue with the Gauteng e-toll project.
Unterhalter said public opinion had been sought about the tolling of Gauteng’s freeways.
He said the toll prices were a separate issue and were not part of the process of declaring toll roads.
It was also submitted that Outa had not calculated the cost of the tolling system, as alleged in court papers.
Jeremy Gauntlett, SC, for the National Treasury, told the judges the implementation of tolling in Gauteng had been known about for a long time.
“There was a high level of public knowledge that e-tolling was coming,” he said.
He submitted that the project’s issues could not be handled as Outa had proposed to the court. He said the project had gone too far for a review of the system.
Judgment was reserved.
Last week transport minister Dipuo Peters said the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project would be implemented this year, but a starting date had not been determined.
The e-tolls have been challenged by political parties and Cosatu.
In April 2012 the High Court in Pretoria granted Outa an interdict approving a full judicial review before tolling could start.
In September, however, the Constitutional Court set aside the interim order and, in December, the High Court in Pretoria dismissed the application. It granted Outa leave on January 25 to go to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. - Pretoria News