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Sanral is not being caused “irreparable financial damage” by the Pretoria High Court’s interim interdict against the e-tolling project. This is the stance of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, who filed their answering affidavits to Sanral and the government’s appeal of the interdict in the Constitutional Court on Monday.
The interdict was granted on April 28, two days before the tolling project was billed to start, pending a court review of the 2008 decision to toll the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
In their papers filed at the Concourt, the government and Sanral said the courts had no right to tell them how to fund the project, and said the delays were causing Sanral “irreparable harm”.
Not so, contends the alliance, whose opposition to the appeal is supported by the National Consumer Commission, among others.
“The government has repeatedly stated since the announcement on May 17, 2012 that it intended to appeal against the interim order, that the government will fund Sanral in the interim and that Sanral’s defaulting on its loan obligations is ‘not an option’,” the group’s affidavit said. “The consequence of the above is that not only is Sanral not at risk of defaulting on its loan obligations, but it is able to continue to work on all other projects, which will be unaffected.”
Furthermore, the government’s budget flexibility meant it was “easily able to fund Sanral in the interim without any compromise to other budget commitments”.
The alliance said Sanral’s appeal “conveniently ignored” four postponements that the agency itself had imposed on the e-tolling system long before the interdict came into play: in April 2011, on June 23 that year, again in November, and later on January 13, 2012.
Then, despite arguing that the system had to commence at the end of April, another month-long postponement was announced before the interdict was handed down.
Last week, the minister of transport withdrew the e-tolls tariffs for “review”.
“By the time the High Court handed down its judgment on Saturday April 28, 2012, the commencement of e-tolling had already been postponed by the minister of transport,” the affidavit said.
“Sanral was not ready to commence e-tolling on April 30, 2012 and is still not ready to commence e-tolling,” the alliance contends.
It stated that the current legal focus by the National Treasury on the appeal to the Concourt was misplaced as the priority should rather be to expedite the full review proceedings.