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The government’s application to the Constitutional Court to set aside a court order halting e-tolling will fail.
“We have no doubt that the government is going to learn the hard way again with the Constitutional Court when it fails in this application,” Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.
It would likewise fail in its appeal against the judgment by the Pretoria High Court.
“The government is wasting time running in the courts at huge expense to the taxpayers.”
On April 28, the Pretoria High Court handed down an order preventing the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) from levying or collecting e-tolls pending the outcome of a judicial review.
Last week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan applied to the Constitutional Court to set aside this court order. Gordhan argued that Judge Bill Prinsloo had ignored the principle of separation of powers.
Vavi rejected this argument.
“In our view it’s a complete false claim… that’s just an attempt to blackmail the judges not to make judgments in the best interests of the law, and the supreme law of the country, which is the constitution.”
Instead of wasting time at courts, the government should be talking to Cosatu to find an alternative way to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. Cosatu has suggested, as an interim measure, a 14 cents-a-litre increase in the fuel levy.
Vavi emphasised this would be only an temporary solution. “We will not reveal what we believe should be really a long-term solution for now because that is subject to discussions with the ANC.”
Vavi rejected a comment by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe that a decision taken in a meeting between the ANC and Cosatu to delay the Gauteng e-tolls by a month was just a suggestion.
“It’s quite annoying… to be told that our agreement with the ruling party is a mere recommendation to the superpower, the government,” Vavi said.
In April, while the High Court was hearing the e-toll arguments, the ANC and Cosatu decided to postpone implementation of the tolls.
“The ANC says it is a strategic political sector. When we engage it, we engage a strategic political sector, not an NGO that can only make recommendations to the superpower, being government,” Vavi said.
Meanwhile, it emerged on Thursday that the government had refused to accept Sanral CEO Nazir Alli’s resignation, and he is likely to return to his post.
The government is also considering pumping money into Sanral to help it service its R20 billion e-tolling debt until the battle over the Gauteng freeway system is resolved, Motlanthe revealed.
Sanral is losing at least an estimated R270 million each month because it cannot collect fees from the system.
Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele told the briefing that Alli had offered to step down if it was felt that he was part of the problem. This was not the case, he said.
Motlanthe said consultations in a bid to break the impasse over e-tolling would get under way urgently and continue until there was “nobody left to consult”.
Ndebele gave the assurance that none of Sanral’s 1 200 employees were at risk of losing their jobs.
He said more people were likely to be employed by the entity because of its large planned road-maintenance and building programme.