Interdict on e-tolling does nothing

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SANRAL TOLL jan31 IOL pic INLSA File photo by Ihsaan Haffejee

The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is not being caused “irreparable financial damage” by the Pretoria High Court’s interim interdict against e-tolling.

This is the stance of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), which filed its answering affidavits to Sanral and the government’s appeal of the interdict in the Constitutional Court yesterday.

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 roads upgraded in 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 in implementing it were causing Sanral “irreparable harm”.

Not so, contends Outa, whose opposition to the appeal is supported by the National Consumer Commission, among others.

“Government has repeatedly stated since the announcement on May 17, 2012, that it intended to appeal against the interim order, that government will fund Sanral in the interim and that Sanral’s defaulting on its loan obligations is ‘not an option’,” said its affidavit.

“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 had itself imposed on the e-tolling system long before the interdict came into play: in April 2011, again on June 23 that year, in November 2011, and later on January 13, 2012.

Then, despite arguing in court that the system simply had to commence at the end of April, another month-long postponement was announced before the interdict was even handed down.

Last week, the minister of transport withdrew the e-tolls tariffs for “review”.

“By the time that the high court handed down its judgment on April 28, 2012, the commencement of e-tolling had already been postponed by the minister of transport,” said the alliance’s affidavit.

“Sanral was not ready to commence e-tolling on April 20 and is still not ready to commence e-tolling,” the alliance contended.

In a statement Outa firmly said the current legal focus by the Treasury on the appeal to the Constitutional Court was misplaced as the priority should rather be to expedite the full review proceedings.

“Outa has now been invited to meet with the (deputy) president and head of the inter-ministerial committee, where we will table our points and suggestions aimed at resolving the current funding impasse,” it said.

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