We didn't mislead public - Sanral

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IOL mot nov27 etoll Independent Newspapers File photo: Thobile Mathonsi

After receiving a grilling by opposition alliance Outa in Pretoria's High Court on Monday, Sanral went on the defensive on Tuesday.

The roads agency has told the court that Outa's allegation (that the initial notice of the intention to toll roads in Gauteng was “sterile” and “misleading”) is inconsistent.

Representing Sanral, David Unterhalter claimed that: “Sanral engaged in forum after forum after forum.

OUTA 'FLATLY WRONG'

“That allegation is inconsistent... It's highly irresponsible and flatly wrong.”

On Monday, Sanral's lawyer Mike Maritz had argued that the public was not aware what Sanral's Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) would entail.

“There was virtually nothing to be contained in the sterile notice. It was positively misleading and it conveyed to the public that it was only existing roads that were going to be tolled,” he said.

Maritz said this was why there was such a limited response to the notice, with only 30 respondents.

According to section 27 of the Sanral Act, public consultation and input on the project was “critical”, Maritz told the court.

SANRAL FOLLOWED LAW

However, Unterhalter said Sanral had done what was required by law and that there had been public consultation.

He told the court that it had also been reported in the media that there would be an upgrade of the roads in Gauteng.

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He said the name Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project clearly stated that the roads would be improved.

“Sanral was not going to simply toll existing roads. Roads were going to be improved,” he said.

Unterhalter said the interpretation of the Sanral Act also played a role.

Unterhalter added: "Civil society knew what was happening and informed their members. It is perfectly clear they knew what was at stake."
 
"[They] stood by for years as construction took place... No one was lulled into some sense of security. They could see the upgrades."
 
Unterhalter told the court no one asked questions while construction was taking place, but waited until the tariffs were announced in February 2011.
 
He said no concerns were raised to Sanral until the tariffs were released, even though construction started years earlier.
 
"[It] seems like they were under a spell by the 'sterile' notice: that is the conspiracy suggested by my learned friend," he told the court.
 
"They knew there was a user-pay principle to fund the tolls... They chose to wait, and there are consequences."
 
Unterhalter said Outa and all the organisations it represented had known about the costs involved in improving the roads.
 
Those who would be affected owned cars and therefore could afford to pay, he said.

Source: Sapa

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