OUTA relishes Western Cape court victory
OUTA's chairman, Wayne Duvenage, said the case had demonstrated SANRAL's lack of legal compliance and highlighted contradictions in its policy.
"In the Gauteng e-tolling case, SANRAL claimed that the cost of tolling was known before the decision to embark on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was taken. Yet in the Cape, SANRAL's counsel claimed the opposite, saying that tolling costs couldn't be determined until the decision to build the roads was taken," he explained. "Contradictions aside, we are amazed that SANRAL was prepared to build the N1/N2 Winelands project without knowing what it would cost the road user."
OUTA said the judgment also emphasised SANRAL's tendency to withhold relevant information. "This tactic and lack of transparency by SANRAL has often been observed by OUTA during our protracted legal case over the Gauteng e-tolling system," Duvenage commented. He also hoped the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) would take note of the judgment. The NCOP is currently considering legislation which would make a vehicle's owner liable for toll payments, as opposed to its driver, something that OUTA described as contradictory to SANRAL's submissions in its Gauteng court case. "SANRAL has constantly promoted e-tolling as a 'user pays' system," said Duvenage. "From the look of this legislation, it actually an 'owner pays' process which adds significant technical difficulties around application and enforcement. We call on the NCOP to put a halt to this legislation until greater clarity is obtained, all options are explored and the legal processes are complete."
He added that vast amounts of information about e-tolling were still outstanding in that the Minister of Transport had not yet responded to the more than 11,000 or so public comments on e-tolling along with feedback on the public forums held during November 2012, at which e-tolling was resoundingly rejected. He said the government had also gone silent on legislation to create the so-called 'e-toll police', and information was lacking on the procedures and legal implications of e-tolling, for instance, the roles of the Criminal Procedure Act and AARTO.
"The City of Cape Town’s court victory is heartening, but the fight isn't over yet. The case clearly showed that SANRAL is prepared to ram e-tolling through at virtually any cost," he said. He encouraged road users to visit the OUTA website for further details on the current e-tolling legal process and to make a contribution to their legal fees for OUTA's upcoming e-tolling fight in the Supreme Court of Appeal. "We cannot stop e-tolling without the help of the public," he concluded.