E-toll court case: An important case for our democracy
Civil society must be able to approach the courts when the rights of citizens have been or will be violated by government action, and the courts, in turn, must remain fully empowered to provide South Africa’s citizens with effective protection, whether on a temporary or permanent basis. The current appeal by Treasury threatens to weaken this constitutionally guaranteed remedy available to civil society, which is so essential for constitutional democracy and the rule of law.
"The decision by SANRAL and the Department of Transport to e-toll Gauteng's freeways and the manner in which that decision has sought to be implemented has already violated the rights of South Africa’s citizens. It threatens to do so to an even greater extent and in a material way by forcing road users to daily pay e-toll in terms of an unlawful scheme" says Wayne Duvenage, the chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA).
In the case of e-tolling, the authorities are not respecting the rights of South Africa’s citizens. Not only did the authorities fail to properly inform and consult with the very individuals and businesses in Gauteng that would be severely impacted by the scheme before they effected the upgrades and installed the gantries, they also have shown no regard for the hard earned salaries and revenues of such individuals and businesses who will be forced to pay a 'road tax' in addition to the already heavy financial burden of taxation and high cost of living. This is not to mention the sheer inefficiencies and impracticalities of this most cumbersome system.
“In this week’s appeal before the Constitutional Court, Treasury is now attempting to have the courts stand back when a decision is made by the executive authority,” warns Duvenage, “as if being the executive authority means always getting it right, or as if being the executive authority implies a licence to violate the rights of citizens".
OUTA will oppose this move by Treasury on Wednesday in order to ensure that the courts remain a bulwark against threats to the rights of individuals and businesses in South Africa. It is crucial that the ability of civil society to obtain effective relief from the courts, especially in instances such as the present where the high court’s decision being challenged stands to negatively and seriously impact hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis, is jealously guarded and preserved.
The review of the decision to e-toll and the manner in which it has been implemented thus far will be heard from 26 to 29 November 2012.
"OUTA and its co-applicants have now filed their supplementary affidavit for the review after fully scrutinising over 7000 pages of documents provided by SANRAL and the relevant government departments" says Duvenage. "This process has revealed the case against e-tolling to be stronger than ever. It is important that the rights of individuals and businesses in Gauteng remain protected by the e-toll interdict until then."