Vehicles of varying types drive through and past the toll gantries on the N4. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Sue Segar

Political Bureau

The government is to appeal the North Gauteng High Court’s interim order that halted e-tolling pending a review of the decision, cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi said yesterday.

Manyi said government lawyers were studying the written judgment, which was received on Wednesday and would “advise the executive in due course”.

The cabinet took the decision to appeal when it met on Wednesday.

Stressing that the controversial Gauteng Freeway Improvement Programme had resulted in “major improvements” to Gauteng freeways under its first phase, Manyi said that defaulting on the debts incurred in the project was “simply not an option”.

Briefing journalists on the outcomes of the cabinet meeting at Parliament, Manyi said the government was also exploring ways of assisting the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to meet its financial obligations following last month’s high court ruling.

Opponents of the controversial project won the first round last month when Judge Bill Prinsloo ruled that Sanral was forbidden from levying or collecting e-tolls until a full judicial review of the project could be heard in court.

Judge Prinsloo said in his judgment that while Sanral would suffer financial losses, the public would also suffer hardship if e-tolling went ahead. Sanral CEO Nazir Alli has since resigned.

Manyi said the cabinet had, at its meeting, reiterated its commitment to the user-pay principle and its decision on e-tolling as an efficient mechanism of collection.

Manyi said the committee of ministers chaired by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe that was formed to look into the issue had briefed the cabinet meeting.

He said the first phase of the project had brought about “observable changes” to the flow of traffic on the roads.

“The benefits to motorists are evident,” said Manyi.

“In doing so, the government has borrowed money and incurred a significant debt. As a country we need to demonstrate unequivocal commitment to meet all our contractual obligations, including repaying the debt incurred in the construction of GFIP. Defaulting on our debt is simply not an option.”

Manyi said Sanral was created by the government “and with its demonstrable capacity to manage large contracts and deliver world-class road infrastructure, it has proved to be a valuable institution of the state.

“Government plans to use Sanral to build more road infrastructure faster, in the period ahead.

“Accordingly, in light of the delay in e-tolling as a result of the court decision, government will take the necessary steps to ensure Sanral’s financial soundness.”