The government has welcomed the ruling by the High Court in Pretoria to dismiss an application to scrap e-tolls in Gauteng on Thursday, and urged motorists to respect the ruling.
“The judgment vindicates government's view that it had followed due process and met all regulatory requirements in declaring portions of the Gauteng freeways as toll roads in 2007,” spokesman Thabo Masebe said in a statement.
“Government calls on all parties to respect the decision of the court and together move forward in the implementation of the e-tolling system.”
The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was being delivered within a “broader context” of improvements to integrated public transport and improvements to non-toll alternative routes, he said.
Judge Louis Vorster on Thursday found that the GFIP was lawfully done and dismissed an application by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) to have e-tolls set aside on Gauteng's freeways.
He said the application could not succeed and ordered Outa to pay costs.
Outa applied to have e-tolls scrapped and said the method proposed to collect money from motorists was too expensive. It argued in November that public participation had not taken place.
Vorster said the argument by Outa was “flawed” and that government had done enough to inform the public.
Masebe said government called on road users to buy an e-tag and to respect the court processes.
Meanwhile, Outa, the Automobile Association of SA and the DA expressed their disappointment with the court ruling on Thursday.
“A precedent has now been set for urban tolling to continue throughout the rest of the country,” AA spokesman Gary Ronald said in a statement.
“Despite this outcome we still firmly believe that an alternative funding option could have come from the fuel levy.”
Ronald said motorists in the country have emerged as the “ultimate loser” in the battle and the ruling will mean significant additions to the costs of motoring in Gauteng.
The DA's Jack Bloom, who was in court, urged the government to reconsider the project, saying residents would not be happy with the ruling.
“This is unlikely to appease the residents of Gauteng, who are adamantly against the tolls,” he said.
“The DA calls on premier Nomvula Mokonyane to call a referendum so that people can have their say on the matter. Public protests will continue unless the e-tolls are stopped.”
Outa's chairman Wayne Duvenhage said that they would study the judgment before they decide a way forward regarding the costs and a possible appeal.
He urged people to not buy e-tags.
“We still strongly believe that e-tolling is wrong. The decision is wrong,” he said after court.
“The will of the people is clear... We don't believe that this is the right way of raising funds for infrastructure development...”
Duvenhage said they strongly believe their decision was the right one, saying government's decision was not taken in the favour of society.
“I'm very disappointed and believe we put a strong argument together.” - Sapa