E-toll saga

E-toll saga back before court on Friday

Toll Road
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Gauteng’s e-tolling saga will enter another phase this Friday when the Constitutional Court will hear arguments by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and Treasury on why an interim interdict, which halted the e-tolling project in April, should be overturned. It will also have to decide whether the Democratic Alliance (DA) party may join the proceedings as “a friend of the court”.

The interdict was granted by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria until the outcome of a full review of the matter. The parties who sought the interdict include the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), while the DA entered the fray in a surprise move earlier this week.

"As a political party, the DA has an interest in the key issue in this case, namely the extent to which courts can and should exercise their powers to interdict government," DA  MPL  Jack Bloom said in a statement issued through Sapa.

The DA said it had asked to be admitted as a friend of the court to make a "substantive contribution" to the case.

Bloom said the party sent letters to all the parties of its intent. 

"Outa has not opposed our application, but Sanral and the national treasury department have indicated their opposition."

Bloom said if the Constitutional Court decided to hear the appeal, the government would try to restrict its ability to make decisions against the State on "the [narrowest] grounds possible".

"If government wins, then expect to see more decisions like the e-tolls pushed through without proper consultation," he said.

"It is essential that the court's substantive power of review is preserved... so that government can be challenged if it departs from rationality and due process in its decision-making," he said. 

Gauteng’s e-tolling system, especially its tariffs which are fiercely opposed by Cosatu and the Road Freight Association (RFA) would have kicked off on 30 April. 

The delay in the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) has since been described as "unhelpful" by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

"It is clearly unhelpful, if we are to make progress in these challenges, that an important source of revenue for the road system has been delayed," he said.

The Cabinet has also announced that it had taken a decision to appeal the interim order to stop e-tolling. 

Presenting the National Treasury's Budget Vote before Parliament, Gordhan said the project had effected improvements to Gauteng's freeways, bringing about substantial improvements in the flow of traffic and benefits to road users.

"This investment has been made not out of general revenue, but through debt which has to be repaid. Cabinet has reiterated its commitment to the e-toll system as an efficient and appropriate mechanism of partial cost recovery from road users," he said. 

Government was also mindful that improvements were needed on alternative roads in the province, said Gordhan.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has been heading a Committee of Ministersto look at all aspects of the e-tolls, including the court decision, the implication of that decision, the impact on Sanral and the ability to pay back the debt.

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