South African opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) has told the Western Cape High Court the country’s provinces should be able to debate the controversial e-tolling bill because they are affected by it.
HumanIPO reported on Monday the DA is in court this week in a bid to have the e-tolling bill declared unconstitutional, the latest legal challenge to the policy after the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FFP) already failed in having e-tolling overturned through the courts.
The court has now adjourned, with a decision expected in two weeks.
The DA argues the bill was incorrectly tagged as a section 75 bill, which can only be debated only in the National Assembly, but should rather be a section 76 bill, enabling it to be debated in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
The South African Press Association (SAPA) reports DA lawyer Willie Duminy told the court the bill should have been debated by the provinces as it affected them.
“It cannot really be denied by the present respondents that this entire system of tolling and raising road user charges affects profoundly the interest, concerns and capacities of provinces,” he said, as the new bill amended the SANRAL and National Roads Act to allow the collection of e-tolls.
“The proposition of the applicants… is that these measures make it possible to establish this open road e-tolling system, and that in itself extends the scope, in practical purposes, of where tolling can be implemented,” Duminy said.
However, Jeremy Gauntlett, for President Jacob Zuma and the National Treasury, said the assertion the bill affected the provinces is false.
“We have not adopted a federal state… There is no Vatican City in South Africa. All of us necessarily work and carry out our lives in spheres of local, provincial and national government simultaneously,” he said.
“The de facto position is that the type of e-tolling facilitated by the collection method envisaged by the amendment act is, and remains, highly unusual. It is only appropriate in very confined circumstances.”
Outside the court, Mmusi Maimane, DA premier candidate for Gauteng, said the party was arguing the bill was passed unconstitutionally because Gauteng residents were “denied a voice against this unjust system”.
“We believe the e-Tolling bill should have been debated in the Gauteng legislature, and all provinces, and not just in Parliament,” he said. “The people who are impacted the most by e-tolling never got the opportunity for their elected representatives to debate the e-tolling bill at provincial level.”
He said if the DA wins the case in the High Court, the matter will automatically be referred to the Constitutional Court where bill may be declared unconstitutional.
“This will send the e-tolling bill back to Parliament and legislatures, potentially giving a new DA majority in Gauteng a chance to vote against the bill,” he said.
OUTA released a statement backing up the DA’s view it was unconstitutional for the bill only to be debated by the National Assembly.
“In the light of recent revelations about SANRAL’s grand plans to extend e-tolling to all national roads in the country, OUTA calls on all provincial legislatures to insist on their right to debate the Transport and Related Matters Amendment Bill,” the group said.
“There can be no argument against the fact that an e-toll system introduced within the confines of any urban area will have a considerable impact on road congestion, maintenance and other pertinent matters at a provincial level. To exclude the provinces in bills of this nature is simply outrageous.”
OUTA said it had recently learned the E-toll Operations Centre at Midrand was designed and built as the “largest storage array in the Southern hemisphere”, capable of processing information from gantries erected all over the country covering thousands of kilometres, which it said was the ultimate plan for the centre.
“This is all the more reason that entitles provincial legislatures to have a say on the matter,” OUTA said.
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