Anti-toll group concerned over court decision

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Johannesburg - The Opposition to Urban Tolling Association (OUTA) has expressed concern that the voices of Gauteng road users were not heard in the Constitutional Court today.

"While we acknowledge the importance of the separation of powers and appreciate the need for government to govern, we are concerned at how broad based citizen groups like OUTA may be constrained, in the future, from effectively challenging major decisions taken by Government...," OUTA chairperson Wayne Duvenage told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday.

He was reacting to the Constitutional Court judgement which upheld an appeal by Treasury against the halting of the e-tolling system on Gauteng's roads.

The High Court in Pretoria had earlier granted the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) an interdict against e-tolling which was scheduled to begin on some Gauteng highways on 30 April.

It instructed that a full review needed to be carried out before electronic tolling of Gauteng's highways could start. The interdict prevented the SA National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) from collecting e-toll fees, pending the outcome of a judicial review.

The Concourt judges, in their unanimous decision on Thursday, upheld the appeal - effectively setting aside the order of the High Court.

Duvenage's argument was whether road users were adequately consulted in 2008. Given that e-tolling was such a major policy implementation decision, the body would have expected SANRAL to have executed their public engagement process to a far greater extent than that which took place, including more detail around pricing, enforcement and implementation.

He added: "We believe that it is not in the interest of the public, the costs are too high and the decision was not taken in the interest of the public. All we are saying is that e-toll in its current form is too costly for motorists."

The Concourt concluded that the High Court should have held that the prejudice that would confront the motorists in Gauteng if the interim interdict was not granted did not exceed the prejudice that the National Executive, National Treasury and SANRAL would have to endure were the temporary restraining order granted.

OUTA has to file its responding affidavits by 1 October. The body's legal adviser Pieter Conradie noted that the review will still go ahead in November as the judgement only dealt with the interdict by the High Court. They will be demanding that SANRAL revised tariff pricing, publish final Terms and Conditions, and revise regulations among others.

Government welcomed the decision of the Concourt, saying it reaffirmed its conviction that the North Pretoria High Court had erred in its judgement which interferes with policy making, a responsibility of the executive.

"Government respects the right of any member of the public to approach the courts to review its decisions and operations within the country's legal framework," a statement said.

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