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Angelique Serrao, Brendan Roane, Solly Maphumulo and Shaun Smillie
Johannesburg - Cosatu has threatened to demolish the e-toll gantries if the government insists on implementing e-tolling next year.
Speaking at its central executive committee media briefing on Wednesday, Dumisani Dakile, Cosatu’s Gauteng provincial secretary, warned that if the state did not abandon plans to toll Gauteng’s roads, “then people will have no choice but to go and demolish those toll gates”.
Dakile was flanked by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and president S’dumo Dlamini when he made the remark.
Cosatu’s protests against the toll system are set to go into overdrive on Friday, with the trade union federation threatening to bring Joburg and Pretoria to a standstill when marches are held in both cities simultaneously.
This is going to be a precursor for further protests organised for next Thursday. On that day, Cosatu plans to have a freeway protest – the first of its kind, said Dakile. The highways affected will include the N1, N3, N4 and the M1 and M2.
Cars, trucks and other vehicles will drive slowly on the highways in protest at e-tolling.
On Wednesday, Vavi said e-tolls had to be stopped in Gauteng because the government was planning to implement them in Cape Town and Durban.
Vavi said this was “a life-and-death struggle”, and other provinces could not be spectators as this was not about Gauteng, “this is about South Africa”. He warned that it “can’t be business as usual” and urged those who had bought e-tags to cancel them.
Cosatu’s threats came on the final day of argument in the Pretoria High Court judicial review into e-tolling, which turned into a legal sparring match, with the SA National Roads Agency’s advocates interrupting their opponents and threatening them with punitive costs.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance senior counsel Mike Maritz responded heatedly by saying he would not be intimidated.
Maritz had just started his response to the arguments of Sanral’s senior counsel, David Unterhalter, and the Treasury’s senior counsel, advocate Jeremy Gauntlett, when Unterhalter stood up and said that if Maritz did not stop saying Sanral had acted dishonestly, he would demand punitive costs from either Maritz personally or from his client.
He said Maritz’s claim was baseless and he could not prove dishonesty on Sanral’s part.
Maritz replied: “We will not be intimidated. I will carry on with my argument now.”
But Unterhalter was not done. He interrupted Maritz again to ask who had made the claim of dishonesty: was it made on behalf of his clients, the alliance, or “if not – and unfortunately I believe this to be the case – is it a fancy of his own?”.
“I ask my lord to instil discipline. Proceedings cannot degenerate into courts being subject to the whim of respondents,” Maritz said.
Maritz continued with his argument that the public had not been given any opportunity to have any say on e-tolling, and that the notices published in newspapers of the intention to toll were so fragmented that the public would have had to put them all together like a jigsaw puzzle to understand the magnitude of what was happening.
Maritz also argued that Sanral’s claim that there were 132 articles relating to tolling was misleading.
He said that between March 3, 2006 and October 2007 they could find only 22 articles that “specifically dealt with tolling or the possibility of tolling”.
Earlier in the day, Gauntlett had argued on behalf of the Treasury that the alliance could not point out a single court order where a permanent interdict had been granted in a public-finance matter. He quoted two cases where judges warned that the courts should not make decisions that go against macro policy.
He said the alliance’s case was a sham with little fact behind it.
Gauntlett also argued that the case was four years too late and should have been launched within 180 days after the government made its decision to toll the roads.
Judge Louis Vorster reserved judgment, saying he did not want to keep both sides waiting, but he had some logistical constraints and would not set a specific date when judgment would be made.