The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has expressed its disagreement with the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA’s) dismissal of its appeal against the implementation of e-tolling on Gauteng’s freeways, which was welcomed by the Department of Transport (DoT).
OUTA and its co-applicants launched court proceedings in the North Gauteng High Court in March 2012, in an attempt to “protect the road-using public” from the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (SANRAL) e-tolling system, described “unlawful and unconstitutional”.
The protest group however disagreed with the court’s ruling that SANRAL’s public consultation before the commencement of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was adequate.
OUTA and its co-applicants then turned to the SCA with the shared belief “that the introduction and planned implementation of e-tolling by SANRAL was unlawful and unconstitutional” for numerous reasons.
“OUTA and its co-appellants also appealed because they believed that the levying and collection of e-tolls is a scheme that had not been introduced according to the law, would violate the constitutional right or road users not to be arbitrarily deprived of property,” said the civil organisation.
OUTA called the SCA’s ruling “astounding” because it believes the appeal court refused to both consider and decide on the “unlawfulness” of e-tolling.
“Instead, the SCA decided the appeal largely on the technical basis that there has been too long a delay in challenging e-tolling. The property challenge was also dealt with on the basis that it was defeated by delay.”
This means the SCA has ruled it is too late, and OUTA believes the SCA are now ignoring the fact that e-tolling may be illegal.
The Department of Transport (DoT) meanwhile, has welcomed the dismissal of OUTA’s appeal against e-tolls in line with the GFIP by the SCA.
“We believe that the SCA ruling further vindicates our long held position as government that we have sufficiently consulted the public before the introduction of the electronic tolling project,” said Tiyani Rikhotso, spokesperson for the DoT.
According to Rikhotso, the SCA’s ruling confirmed a previous finding by the North Gauteng High Court, which indicated sufficient public consultation was carried out by government.
In line with the implementation process of e-tolling, the DoT said it was pleased to announce the “proclamation” of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Act, which was signed into law by president Jacob Zuma last month.
Mmusi Maimane, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Gauteng premier candidate, said the proposed e-toll tariffs, which were published in the Government Gazette yesterday (Wednesday), are not affordable.
The public has 30 days to comment on them.
“The tariffs clearly show that [e]-tolling is simply not affordable for the people of Gauteng. The law does not force me to have an e-tag and so in protest I will not be purchasing one,” said Maimane.
Maimane said further: “It is unthinkable that road users with an e-tag will be charged up to ZAR4.20 (US$0.42) per gantry, and ZAR8.12 (US$0.82) without an e-tag.”
He said this confirms the “worst fears” of small business owners of Orange Farm whom he visited earlier this week, adding that small business owners’ profit will decrease due to the number of gantries the owners will have to travel through to collect stock.
“The DA is studying the tariffs and will issue a comprehensive response in due course,” said Maimane.