Test case to decide the fate of e-tolls heads to court

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has instituted the next round of its civil challenge against the e-toll system, submitting its responding pleas to the summonses issued for outstanding e-toll payments against Outa’s contributing supporters.

Effectively, these summonses and pleas will form the “test case” and should set a precedent as to the future of e-tolls in South Africa.

“We regard the e-toll system as unjust and illegal for a number of reasons,” said Ben Theron, Outa’s Chief Operating Officer.

“We have gathered our facts and prepared our case over the past few years, so as to present compelling arguments and merits which will speak for themselves.”

Some of the points Outa are arguing include:

  • Sanral’s declarations of the Gauteng freeways as toll roads are invalid as they don’t comply with public information and consultation requirements in the Sanral Act and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act;
  • Sanral’s toll declarations are against the constitution which requires “Supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law”;
  • Sanral’s notices of intention to toll were materially inadequate and flawed;
  • There was insufficient notification and time for the public to comment during the public engagement exercise and furthermore, Sanral didn’t properly consider the few comments that were made;
  • The Minister of Transport’s approval of the tolling is unlawful and invalid as these decisions were irrational and he did not sufficiently consider the costs, any alternative means of funding the roads, alternative routes for motorists or the impossibility of enforcing open road tolling;
  • The Sanral board failed to approve the tolling before the declarations were issued and furthermore, failed to consider alternative funding, excluded the fuel levy as a means of funding, failed to consider whether it was practical to enforce open road tolling, failed to consider alternative routes, failed to consider the costs of the toll operations and failed to consider the substance of public representations;
  • Sanral charged VAT on the e-tolls incorrectly and was not entitled to do so;
  • Sanral did not provide reasonable alternative non-tolled routes, which violates constitutional rights to freedom of movement and equal treatment.

“The e-toll fight has been a long journey and we value the support received from the public in this battle, however, the real fight is now only beginning,” said Wayne Duvenage, Chairman of Outa.

“The matter is being fought on two fronts: the constitutional matters of the scheme’s introduction; and the technical matters and merits of each specific case.”

Duvenage notes that this, in turn, leads to each case being different and Sanral will not be able to claim a precedent for any case it wins.

“The road ahead will become messy and at the end of the day, Sanral will not be able to convince its masters or investors that this collection process is efficient or effective.”

“Once again, Outa calls on the authorities to allow sanity to prevail by scrapping the e-toll decision and move forward with society to find the right solution to service the debt raised for the Gauteng freeway upgrade,” said Duvenage.

In lieu of the constitutional matters raised in the plea of this first case by Outa, organisations and people with an interest in those constitutional matters, are invited to tender for admission as amicus curiae (interested parties) to the e-toll case.

Read: Sanral’s future on the line if you don’t pay e-tolls: CEO

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Test case to decide the fate of e-tolls heads to court