Outa contends that a default judgement for e-toll debt, where no defence is raised, does not set a precedent because the merits of the case have not been heard. File photo: Adrian de Kock / INLSA
Pretoria - The South African National Roads Agency Limited was “lying” when it said that a default judgment of more than R400 000 in its favour for non-payment of e-toll debt set a precedent to legally punish other defaulters.

This according of Wayne Duvenage, the chairperson of civil action group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, who said Sanral was deliberately misleading the public in order to “intimidate” and “bully” road users into funding an “impractical system”.

On Friday the Pretoria News reported that an Ekurhuleni-based company, One Stop Building Supplies CC, was ordered in January to pay Sanral R436 407.56 for non-payment of e-toll debt by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said last week this “precedent-setting” judgment showed how there were “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”.

But Duvenage slammed Mona for his “misleading views”, saying this default judgment did not set a precedent because the company in question did not respond to Sanral’s summons and did not defend itself in court.

'Mona is lying' 

“Mona is lying when he says this case is precedent setting; no default judgment is ever precedent setting, Duvenage said. "The merits of the case have not been heard, making Mona’s claims extremely disingenuous to say the least.”

Speaking on Sunday, Mona reiterated Sanral’s stance that a precedent had been set with the January judgment, saying Outa was “promoting civil disobedience” by telling the public not to pay their e-toll debt.

“We do not subscribe to the view that the default judgment in favour of Sanral is of no consequence," Mona insisted. "It is our view that if a similar matter were to be brought before a court in future, it will not require the same legal effort as a precedent has been set.”

Litigation attorney Neil Kaplan said Sanral could not rely on this default judgment for precedent in future cases as there could possibly be a defence mounted, where the court could find against Sanral.

“In the default judgment the defence was not considered as none was put up, Kaplan contended. “So, in my view, I believe that the default judgment does not set a precedent.”

Test case pending

Duvenage added that his organisation and Sanral had agreed to a test case to test the validity of the e-toll system, saying the roads agency should desist from continuing to seek default judgments against non-paying road users as this was “dangerous” and had the “potential to ruin people’s lives” should the “scheme” be deemed unlawful.

“When Sanral issued 6000 plus summonses against defaulters, 152 of these were against our members," he said. "We gave notice of intention to defend each one.

“Our lawyers then said to Sanral: ‘Do you want to do all 152 cases separately, or should we do one test case?’. Obviously the Deputy Judge President would not like to see his courts clogged up with hundreds of cases, so it made sense to have one - which Sanral agreed to.

“I don’t think they had a choice,” Duvenage said.

But Mona countered that Sanral had not agreed to a test case, saying the legal teams of Sanral and Outa were still exchanging correspondence on the matter.

“It was agreed between the parties that in the event a test case is agreed, it will be communicated to the public.”

Pretoria News