Johannesburg - The Automobile Association has expressed concern about the latest public exchanges between the South African National Roads Agency Limited and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse on issues relating to e-tolls in Gauteng.
The dispute raised in the public domain over the past week by the two organisations relates to legal discussions between them on the summonses issued to e-toll defaulters, said Layton Beard, spokesman for the AA.
According to Outa, he said, an agreement was reached that current, and future, Outa members - who have outstanding e-toll accounts - would not be pursued until a test case to determine the legality of e-tolls on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project was concluded.
Sanral, in turn, denied that an agreement had been reached, claiming Outa was using this as a means of attracting (paid for) membership. Its legal representatives, Werksmans, confirmed that no such agreement had been concluded, although the parties were in discussion about agreeing a possible test case, said Beard.
Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said last week that it was important for road users to be fully informed and not to be misled by incorrect statements made by Outa.
He said there was no blanket immunity for anyone who was an Outa member or who joined Outa. There had not, and would not be any such indemnification by Sanral of Outa members. Mona said if Outa insisted that such an agreement was reached, they were welcome to produce the copy of such a signed agreement or approach the court to clarify the matter.
'Not benefitting anyone'
Beard said neither Outa nor Sanral had mentioned the position of non-Outa members, especially those who are not paying their e-tolls accounts, and how they should proceed if they were summonsed by the roads agency.
“Whatever the situation may be, this current round of debate in the media between the two parties is not bringing any clarity to Gauteng road users on how they must proceed in relation to e-tolls. Many road users still do not pay for e-tolls, and are anxious for a final legal ruling. In light of this, we urge both Sanral and Outa to consider that this is not benefitting anyone,” said Beard.
In addition, the AA noted that it was of particular concern that Outa claims that an agreement has been reached in relation to its current and future members.
“We understand that many motorists have joined Outa to protect themselves legally in the event they are summonsed to appear in court. We believe there are many motorists who are not, or do not intend to be, members of Outa, or who are members of other organisations.
"Their rights should similarly be protected one way or another. If it is true that an arrangement has been made (only for current and future Outa members), this amounts to protection for a specific group of individuals, which is wholly unfair and, we would argue, may be unconstitutional,” said Beard.
The AA further noted that if Sanral had an agreement with Outa, or any other civic organisations, then it did not seem unreasonable to expect a joint statement from all involved parties to this effect.
“We are also concerned that the issue of the e-tolls saga is not being resolved quicker. As far back as April we noted that the issue of the validity of the debts would end in court, and urged all concerned to resolve this issue as priority, for the sake of all motorists in Gauteng.
"We are dismayed that at what seems to be endless delays in bring this matter to finality, a situation that is not benefiting the most important players in all of this: Gauteng motorists.”
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