Legal representatives of both Sanral and Outa have been engaged since last year on a possible single test case, where Outa sought to defend 152 of its members who received summonses from Sanral for non-payment of e-toll debt.
On Thursday Outa portfolio director for transport Ben Theron laid the blame for the breakdown in the numerous engagements squarely at Sanral’s door, saying the road agency was intentionally obstructive during the engagements, because it knew that the e-toll system was implemented in a flawed process.
“We are saying that the system was implemented illegally, so Sanral cannot generate income on an illegal system," he said. "The point we are making is: let’s get to court to determine whether or not the system is legal.
“What’s happening now is that Sanral is quietly going to court and saying that road users owe them money, and they are going for default judgment processes. We think that this tactic from Sanral is underhanded.”
But Sanral general manager for communications Vusi Mona asserted that it was Outa that caused the negotiations to break down as the civil group did not negotiate the terms of the agreement for a test case in good faith.
“The negotiations have, therefore, come to an end," he said, "and Outa’s clients will need to proceed to file their pleas and the matters will proceed as trial actions.
“Sanral could not continue negotiating a possible test case in the absence of defined rules and clear timelines,” Mona said.
He added that the road agency would continue seeking default judgments against non-paying road users who receive summonses, saying that Sanral has an obligation in terms of the Public Finance Management Act to collect all monies due to it.
“But we also have a responsibility towards the paying road users to ensure that these outstanding monies are collected,” Mona emphasised.
Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto contended it will be “very difficult” for Sanral to win e-toll cases in court because, he said, Outa represents a broad spectrum of society, a vast majority of unions were against the e-tolls and Sanral will be bankrupt if they try each case on its own.
“But Sanral has to try its luck in court because it is a business and, although it is state-owned, it is still a business and needs to make a profit in order to be sustainable,” Gutto said.
Ekurhuleni-based One Stop Building Supplies was ordered in January to pay Sanral R436 407.56 for non-payment of e-toll debt by the high court in Pretoria.