493 16/01/2012 The infamous coloured lights of a Sanral tolling gantry can be seen illuminating Gautengs roads during the night. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Gauteng e-tolling project opponents have reacted with disbelief that the government has announced its intention to appeal against the e-tolling interdict only now – two days after the deadline.

Many of the organisations involved in the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance court case against the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) and the National Treasury celebrated earlier this week because the 15-day deadline for the appeal to be launched had passed.

The government said on Thursday it would appeal against the decision by Pretoria High Court Judge Bill Prinsloo to interdict e-tolling until such a time that a full court review of the project could take place.

The cabinet said in a statement that it had received the written judgment on the interdict only on Thursday and that its lawyers were still studying it.

This will probably mean the state’s lawyers will apply for condonation to be allowed to place papers before the court after the deadline.

Wayne Duvenage, the chairman of the alliance against e-tolling, said Thursday’s announcement came as a surprise. “We are a bit disappointed, but this is their right. It’s disappointing that the state would choose to fight this out in the courts instead of meeting with us to try to solve this constructively.”

The cabinet said in its announcement that Sanral was a “valuable institution of the state” and it planned to use the agency to build further road infrastructure.

Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said the cabinet had reiterated its commitment to the user-pays principle and its decision on e-tolling as an efficient collection mechanism.

He said the committee of ministers chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe that was formed to look into the issue had briefed the cabinet meeting.

Manyi said Motlanthe would address the media on Thursday on “all matters relating to e-tolling”, including the appeal.

Howard Dembovsky from the Justice Project SA said it was nonsensical for the cabinet to proclaim e-tolling as an efficient collection mechanism because one of the key points in Judge Prinsloo’s interdict was that non-compliance by road users would be an administrative nightmare.

The DA’s Jack Bloom said the government’s decision to appeal was “foolish and doomed to fail”.

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The Star