R1 million shortfall jeopardises e-toll court challenge

In April 2012, OUTA interdicted the introduction of e-tolls and again in January 2013, won the right to have their case heard in the SCA.

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05/06/2013 11:06:43

R1 million shortfall jeopardises e-toll court challenge

These critical victories ensured that motorists around the country were saved from paying e-tolls and more importantly, sets the scene for OUTA’s ultimate intention, to prevent the introduction of an irrational and inefficient collection scheme whose costs are almost as much as the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) itself.

More recently, the City of Cape Town won their court case against SANRAL, confirming that the tolling of our urban freeways is now a national issue and that SANRAL’s approach to this process requires greater transparency, better engagement with the public and more scrutiny of their research and facts. Indeed, few campaigns in our new democracy have rallied so many political, labour, religious, business and civil groups around the opposition to one singular issue.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) continues to remind the authorities that no one is questioning the need for upgraded freeways or the fact that benefits are derived from reduced traffic congestion. Nor does OUTA suggest that society is opposed to paying for road upgrades. What remains at the heart of this issue is the lack of constitutional requirements for meaningful public participation and the irrationality of applying an extremely costly, burdensome and inefficient means of revenue collection through e-tolling.

The e-toll challenge also has a number of human rights issues, not least of all for people with mobility impairments who rely on the goodwill of family, friends, neighbours and their communities that assist them to move around or seek employment. Their situation and quality of life will be seriously compromised by e-tolls and both Government and SANRAL have ignored this vulnerable minority group during the planning of the e-toll scheme.

OUTA believes there is still time for the Government to rethink this plan and suspend e-tolling, while the best possible solution with the lowest negative impact on road users is found. Amidst a climate of overwhelming public rejection and continuing legal action, SANRAL appears committed to launching e-tolling, some two months before the court appeal. Despite SANRAL’s utterances that OUTA’s current legal action is of no consequence to them, should the Supreme Court rule in OUTA’s favour, their plans for e-tolling could very well be halted.

The next step in OUTA’s legal case is at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which has been set for 25 and 26 September this year. Court papers will now need to be urgently prepared, to argue our very winnable case at the second highest court in the land.

One of OUTA’s biggest challenges to date has been to keep pace with the ongoing legal costs of this complicated case, despite having received reduced rates and numerous hours of work conducted at no charge by our outstanding advocates. Unlike the fortunate situation that Government and SANRAL find themselves in, with endless funds from hard earned tax payer’s money to pay for multiple legal counsels and attorneys, OUTA relies purely on donations from the public and business.

To date, OUTA is almost R3 million behind in payments and as a result of this situation, we have been notified by our attorney that our future appeal costs - estimated at slightly over R1 million - will have to be paid by 21st June, if we are to have this important public interest matter represented in the SCA.

This is a public interest matter and every rand raised is spent on the legal and administration costs of the campaign. The directors and supporters of OUTA receive no payment for their time and effort put into this case. In this regard, OUTA extends its sincere appreciation to approximately 240 businesses and 7,780 citizens and families for raising the R8,4 million achieved to date. However, we will have come so close and yet be so far from our goal, if we are unable to raise the required R1 million within the next three weeks, to give this extremely strong case a fair chance in the appeal court.

With millions of citizens and thousands of businesses having saved significant sums of money over the past year as a result of OUTA’s interdict against e-tolls, we appeal in earnest to society to contribute a small part of their savings to OUTA, by donating anonymously through OUTA’s confidential online funding process. By contributing, no matter how little, people and businesses are able to express their opposition to e-tolls and become active citizens on this matter.

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.