'Planning of e-tolls excluded public'

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IOL mot nov27 gantry Independent Newspapers File photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

Sanral deliberately kept the public in the dark about e-tolling because it did not want anything to interfere with the construction of the roads before the soccer World Cup.

This was the view presented by advocate Mike Maritz, of opposition alliance Outa, at the start of the e-tolling review in the Pretoria High Court on Monday.

The review is set down for three days. The alliance, Sanral, Treasury and the Department of Transport’s advocates, will argue for and against e-tolling.

Judge Louis Vorster will then decide whether or not he believes e-tolling should go ahead. Nobody knows how long he will take to come to a decision.

ILLEGAL PROJECT

Maritz spent the day trying to convince the judge that the administrative process involved in declaring the roads toll roads and the public participation process was so “woefully inadequate” that the whole project should be considered illegal.

His argument flowed smoothly except for one interruption, when Treasury’s advocate Jeremy Gauntlett asked Judge Vorster to recuse himself from the case for a comment he had made earlier in the day.

Maritz said he was going to argue that section 27 of the Sanral Act had not been followed properly and this meant the entire project was illegal.

Judge Vorster said this was, in fact, the crux of the case. Maritz said if the judge was with him on that point, he needed to make no other arguments to the case.

“I was with you on that before you even started talking,” Vorster said.

Sanral and the Treasury’s legal teams immediately asked to see the judge in his chambers. After a 40-minute break, Gauntlett said they had to ask the judge if he had a fixed view of the proceedings.

Vorster replied: “Let me clarify this publicly for all to hear. I had the opportunity earlier to read the heads of argument… I then asked if this point was crucial and he answered in the affirmative. I was merely saying I was already aware of this even before he started.”

 

In his argument, Maritz pointed out that only 30 people had responded to Sanral’s initial public participation attempts in 2008, during the publishing of adverts in five newspapers on their intention to toll. This was in stark contrast to Sanral’s initial proposal in 2006 stating that public participation inside and outside government was key to the project.

WORLD CUP AGENDA

He said when the roads were upgraded, the World Cup was high on the agenda and the public knew nothing about the tolling and thought the development was for the World Cup.

“Sanral calculated to keep the public in the dark and mislead them,” Maritz said.

He said Sanral had changed what it said was the cost of the project every time they spoke to the alliance.

First, Sanral said it would cost R15 billion, then R18.5bn, then R80bn and then R71bn. Outa, on the other hand, has calculated collection costs are in fact R30.5bn, one-and-a-half times higher than what it cost to build the roads.

Government’s legal team is expected to present its case today. -The Star



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