Civil action group Outa has called off the e-toll test case it was trying to get off the ground in partnership with Sanral.
After months of trying to get the e-toll test case underway, Outa said it has instructed its lawyers to cancel further “test case” engagements with Sanral, so as to speed up the process of bringing the first case with one of its members to court, which will in effect be its test case.
The test case was being negotiated between the two parties in an attempt to spare the courts from having to deal with thousands of summonses over the same thing, as was Sanral’s intention.
The test case would have been argued by Sanral and Outa to set a precedent on the payment of e-tolls, with the latter arguing that the merits of the entire system will not succeed in a court.
The test case scenario followed Sanral’s issuance of over 6,000 summonses to e-toll defaulters, including 152 motorists that Outa pledged to defend.
Outa has accused Sanral of constantly delaying the test case, while also moving ahead and sending out thousands of summonses to the general motoring public in a bid to score a pre-emptive ‘win’.
Sanral’s thirst for such a precedent was seen recently when the High Court handed down a default ruling against an Alberton business owner who failed to appear in court over her outstanding e-toll debt.
The roads agency used the ruling to punt that it had received a precedent-setting ruling in its favour – however, Outa and Justice Project South Africa said this was a false claim, as a default judgement did not rule on the merits of e-tolling in any way.
Outa is now waiting for one of its members to be summoned to court.
“We are aware Sanral has issued several thousand e-toll non-payment summonses to the general motoring public and not all of these people are part of Outa’s e-toll defence umbrella,” the group said.
“This means the first case which Sanral may bring to court, could very well be one that falls outside of Outa’s knowledge. We believe Sanral is aiming for such a case, so as to try to obtain a win in court on a poorly defended case against an unsuspecting individual or business, to give the impression of another precedent-setting win.”
Outa said that even if such a case was heard and ruled in favour of Sanral, it would not necessarily be precedent-setting.
The group argued that the facts and arguments put up by an Outa-assisted member of the public are likely to be “different and more comprehensive” on account of its legal team’s knowledge and experience with e-toll litigation.
“It would be a case of ‘win small now and lose big later’ for Sanral, until they call off the debacle,” Outa said.