Cosatu has called Sanral's campaign of default judgements for non-payment of e-tolls "legal bullying". File photo: Matthews Baloyi
Johannnesburg - A default judgment of more than R400 000 for non-payment of e-toll debt has emboldened the South African National Roads Agency Limited to continue launching legal action against other defaulters.

This despite Gauteng Premier David Makhura admitting during his State of the Province Address in February that the controversial project was a “mistake” that his administration had failed to resolve, asserting that “there will be no e-tolls” on new roads that the province would construct.

In January, the high court in Pretoria ordered the Ekurhuleni-based company One Stop Building Supplies CC to pay Sanral R436 407.57 for defaulting on its e-toll payments.

On Thursday Sanral’s general manager for communications Vusi Mona said this “precedent-setting” judgment had fortified the agency’s resolve to recoup outstanding e-toll debt, saying Sanral was merely adhering to the precepts of the Public Finance Management Act.

“Like any other government agency, such as Sars, Sanral has a duty in terms of the PFMA and Treasury regulations to collect all monies due to it. It’s an obligation we take seriously,” he emphasised.

“Hence we are appealing to all road users who have outstanding e-toll debt to take into consideration that there are real consequences to continued delinquency, which non-payment of e-toll debt is, and that it is both a criminal and civil offence in terms of section 27(5) of the Sanral Act.”

Efforts to get comment from the company in question proved unsuccessful.

"It is tantamount to kicking someone when they’re down.”

Civil society group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse stated last week that it had made contact with One Stop Building Supplies, saying the company was in liquidation and that Sanral was bound to receive very little for its effort.

Outa portfolio director for transport Ben Theron pointed out that this was a default judgment obtained against an individual who ignored a summons issued for the non-payment of e-tolls. There had been no legal hearing and there had been no ruling by a judge on the merits or legality of the e-toll scheme.

A default judgment was only possible when a person who has received a summons failed to defend it, he said. By claiming this to be a precedent-setting outcome, it seemed Sanral was trying to slip through the back door in search of default judgments, to prevent the merits of the case and the legal arguments being heard.

“The current test case under development between Outa and Sanral’s lawyers is where the merits of e-tolling will be challenged,” he said, “with all the facts and issues presented.”

More than that, he added, the default judgment was obtained on a “simple summons” that contained numerous errors, making the technicalities of allowing the default judgment by the registrar of the court a cause for concern.

Outa further stated that Sanral’s “actions of seeking default judgments were dangerous, in that they could push innocent people and companies over the edge and into poverty and liquidation”.

'Legal bullying'

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the federation was prepared to fund legal defences for road users taken to court by “bully” Sanral.

“We do not support e-tolls and we think that the legal bullying that is being used by Sanral to try and coerce people into submission is something that is not going to work in the long term.

“This is because the premier of Gauteng has washed his hands of e-tolls, the mayor of Johannesburg has washed his hands of e-tolls and the voters have made their voices clear on e-tolls,” Pamla said, referring to the ANC’s loss of Johannesburg and Tshwane in the 2016 local government elections.

“Sanral can use all forms of legal platforms to try and bully people, but Cosatu is prepared to meet Sanral in court and engage with them there.”

But Mona was adamant that Sanral was trying to collect money to fund the completion of the more than 150km of new freeways that were part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

“E-tolling is a user-pay principle that was gazetted by the national government and which was deemed as the most viable funding instrument for the project,” he said.

The Star

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