SANRAL’s N2 Wild Coast toll road scheme finally under judicial review
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is pleased that the 16-year-long civil action to have SANRAL’s realignment of the N2 along the Pondoland Wild Coast is finally under judicial review, thanks to the local community who have tirelessly resisted SANRAL’s bullying tactics.
At a time when this country can hardly afford further wasteful expenditure, the long-awaited review of the environmental authorisation on what appears to be an extremely unpopular scheme is long overdue. We trust that the case which commenced in the Pretoria High Court last week before Judge Cynthia Pretorius will highlight the serious consequences arising from the lack of meaningful community engagement and expose the real beneficiaries of this costly decision.
OUTA commends the courage of the applicant Sinegugu Zukulu, who is a founding member of Sustaining the Wild Coast. This civil action organisation has stood strong despite a drawn out and costly court review over the past three years. True to form, SANRAL’s “attrition through lawfare” tactics of bringing interlocutory applications have delayed the commencement of the proceedings. This has been compounded by a display of arrogance in SANRAL’s decision to start construction of the access roads to the sites before the judge has ruled if the scheme is lawful or not.
Fortunately, SANRAL’s attempts to squash the case have failed and the beleaguered SOE now faces the prospect of having to halt the scheme if the high court finds in favour of Zukulu and the community residents.
“We are hopeful that Judge Pretorius will see through the desperation tactics employed by SANRAL,” says OUTA CEO Wayne Duvenage. “I have known Sinegugu Zukulu for nine years and believe him to be a sterling example of moral courage.”
OUTA notes the statement by Richard Spoor, Zukulu’s attorney, that “regardless of the outcome the project is headed for disaster at huge cost to the taxpayer,” and that “at the heart of the matter is SANRAL’s mishandling of local communities. They have been arrogant, contemptuous, manipulative and dishonest in their dealings with them.”
“This is history repeating itself,” says Duvenage, who goes on to say “just as we saw on the Gauteng e-toll matter, it would appear that SANRAL has overlooked its obligations to Section 195 of the Constitution, which requires it to promote ‘a high standard of professional ethics’ and ‘respond to people’s needs’ and ‘provide the public with timely accessible and accurate information’.
“As we have seen unfolding in this matter, it was Sinegugu and the community who had to work out exactly where the proposed new shortcut route would be located, because SANRAL refused to make that information available. We’ve seen this movie before and sadly SANRAL is repeating these mistakes instead of behaving as an organ of state that befits and upholds our Constitution.”
Legal disputes aside, SANRAL’s bridge building projects on this route have been halted by an angry and often violent community whose protests have been fuelled by misleading communication and broken promises. Even the deployment of political heavyweights to subdue the angry community has done nothing to remove the impasse and, as a result, the stalled building of the multi-billion rand Mtentu bridge project is attracting more costs and penalties that escalate every day.
We trust that SANRAL’s management will not project the blame onto others without taking an introspective look at their role and probable root cause of the problem. One would have thought that as a result of their strained financial situation after the Gauteng e-toll fiasco, SANRAL would have learned to proceed with greater care and with more consideration for public sentiment. Sadly this has not been the case and so once again, we have a debacle that will end up becoming a cost for the taxpayer.