"We’re tired of the delays caused by the time taken between responses in our engagements with Sanral,” said Outa portfolio director for transport Ben Theron. “We want to get on with the job of showing the courts and the public that e-tolling is unlawful, in cases for which we gave notice to defend last year already.
“And we’re angry that Sanral is sneaking through the back door to file default judgments against members of the public, even though it knows that we have serious issues with this, as well as hard evidence of its flawed e-toll processes and the illegality of the whole scheme.”
Sanral had issued thousands of summonses for non-payment of e-tolls to the general public, Theron said, and not all those people were Outa members. Although a default judgment did not create a precedent because it didn’t rule on the merits of the case, he was concerned that if a member of the public tried to take on Sanral in court without legal help, they could lose.
“ We believe Sanral is aiming for such a case,” he said, “to try to get a victory in court on a poorly defended case against an unsuspecting defendant, to give the impression of a precedent-setting win.”
Theron pointed out, however, that even if Sanral were to win such a case, it wouldn’t necessarily set a valid precedent, because the facts and arguments put up Outa’s legal team were likely to be substantially different and more comprehensive.
He said Sanral’s efforts to force a solution for its financial problems with a blizzard of litigation were shortsighted. It didn’t work in the Dr Stoychev case in 2015, or in the case of the default judgement in March this year.
“Peripheral e-toll skirmishes against unsuspecting citizens are quickly exposed for the hollow victories they really are,” he said. “The people will know when the real court battle is fought - and the quicker we get there, the quicker the e-toll debacle that began unlawfully as far back as 2007 will finally come to an end.
“What they’re doing now will only earn Sanral the reputation of behaving like a schoolyard bully that prefers to pick on the kids at the edge of the playground; they’re scared of challenging a public-funded legal team that will take them on with the right arguments and some pretty scary facts and questions they need to answer.”
He advised the agency to halt all the other cases it has against the public until then; it would get messy, he said, and the courts could potentially be clogged with many unnecessary and damaging cases that could affect people’s lives and livelihood.
“We trust Sanral will come to its senses before too many people get hurt,” said Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage.
If you get summonsed for non-payment of e-tolls, he insisted, don’t ignore it; file a notice of intent to defend the matter within the next few days. You’ll need to follow the correct legal processes, he advised, and if you’re not sure how, contact a lawyer; you’ll find guidelines on Outa’s website.