File picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Cape Town - Parliament and Sanral welcomed a judgment in their favour on Thursday that dismissed an application to have e-tolling legislation declared unconstitutional and invalid.

“We urge those who have questioned the legality of this bill to respect the court's judgment,” SA National Roads Agency Limited spokesman Vusi Mona said.

He said Gauteng road users were increasingly registering for e-tags as the need for and advantages of the system were “widely accepted”.

Parliament said the judgment had vindicated two of the respondents, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairman Mninwa Mahlangu.

“The judgment is a vindication for the Parliamentary process which was followed in the enactment of the 1/8amendment 3/8 act and the role of the Joint Tagging Mechanism in exercising its constitutional function.”

The Democratic Alliance approached the Western Cape High Court after the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill was enacted in September last year.

The amendments were primarily intended to facilitate the electronic monitoring of traffic through toll plazas and the electronic collection of the tolls.

The DA had argued the amendments were unconstitutional and invalid because they had not been passed according to what it deemed to be proper procedure, which would be with input from the provinces.

Western Cape High Court Judge Owen Rogers dismissed the application on Thursday and said it was clear in his mind that provincial legislatures had no power to pass legislation aimed at meeting the purposes identified in the act.

The DA was not ordered to pay costs because Rogers believed the case had raised “genuine and substantive constitutional issues”.

DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said the party intended filing an application for leave to appeal against the judgment.

The bill was tagged as a section 75 bill - an ordinary bill not affecting provinces - rather than a section 76 bill, which does affect provinces.

The tagging has implications for voting procedures and the power of the majority party in Parliament.

A section 75 bill is still referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) so it can decide whether to accept, reject or recommend amendments.

However, the National Assembly ultimately decides whether to pass the bill with or without amendments, or not proceed with the bill at all.

With a section 75 bill, the voting procedure is more likely to result in a majority vote in the NCOP which accords with the majority in the National Assembly.

A section 76 bill is different in that it is referred to a mediation committee if the NCOP rejects the bill or if the National Assembly declines to pass it with recommended amendments.

It also enforces one vote per delegation.

This means that should the bill be rejected by the NCOP and not resolved by the mediation committee, the National Assembly cannot force the legislation through except with a two-thirds majority.

The DA's legal team had argued that the amendments to the Sanral and National Roads Act had knock-on effects for provinces.

The respondents in the application were President Jacob Zuma, Sisulu, Mahlangu, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, Sanral, and the National Treasury.

The respondents had argued that the amendments did not add substantial measures to the existing Sanral Act.

Even if further e-tolling was introduced on the strength of the amendments, the respondents argued that effects on functional areas of concurrent national and provincial competence would not be substantial.

Rogers ruled that the true test in terms of the relevant sections of the Constitution favoured a direct regulation approach based on legislative competence, rather than the knock-on effects approach.

“The knock-on effects approach would also, I think, result in virtually all legislation having to be tagged in terms of section 76,” Rogers said in his written judgment.

This would be so because everything that happened in the country happened in one or more provinces.

“If the implementation of the pre-existing act as amended by the amendment act does indeed significantly change traffic patterns, trade and urban development in a particular province, that province will be at liberty... to enact legislation to alter the law in that province regarding these functional areas.”