Concourt reserves e-toll judgement

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court on Wednesday reserved judgement on whether it should overturn the interim interdict preventing e-tolling in Gauteng from commencing.

After hearing arguments from David Unterhalter SC, representing the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), National Treasury lawyer Jeremy Gauntlett and Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) lawyer Alistair Franklin, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said: "We reserve judgement and the court is adjourned."

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan earlier this year, on behalf of government, applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the court interdict stopping e-tolling.

This was after the North Gauteng High Court granted an interdict - brought by OUTA, the South African Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, the Quadpara Association of South Africa and South African National Consumer Union - to halt e-tolling.

In today's proceedings, Gauntlett noted that the judgement of the North Gauteng High Court was an unprecedented intervention in public finance matters and was a fundamental breach of the division of powers as stipulated in the Constitution.

Gordhan said in court papers filed in May that Sanral's cash reserves, which include the R5.75 billion received from Treasury, will be depleted by the first quarter of 2013 should e-tolling not go ahead, unless additional transfers are made from the fiscus through higher taxes for road infrastructure.

Failure to collect tolls raises the risk of Sanral defaulting on its loans, which would trigger an immediate repayment of the entire loan book of R37.1 billion.

In such an event, government would be obliged to support Sanral by repaying the rest of the unguaranteed debt of R14.1 billion.

Under the project, drivers would pay over 35 cents per kilometre to travel on some of Gauteng's major roads. There would also be a monthly cap of R550 for frequent users. In addition, there would be a 15 percent discount in the rates after their toll fees reach R400.

Drivers of motorcycles would pay 20 cents per kilometre and non-articulated and articulated trucks would pay 75 cents and R1.51 per kilometre respectively.

Heavy vehicles would qualify for a 20 percent discount if they use the roads during off-peak times in the day. Taxis and other public transport operators would be exempt from toll fees.