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Thursday Apr 26, 2012

Another judgment on Gauteng tolling expected today

The opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance has expressed optimism about its prospects of obtaining a temporary interdict today to stop the implementation of electronic tolling after overcoming a key legal hurdle.

Map of Gauteng showing the tolling plazas and gantries.
Click here for larger version of map.

Wayne Duvenage, the chairman of the alliance, said after the end of the court proceedings in the Gauteng North High Court yesterday that he was encouraged by what had happened so far.

Judge Bill Prinsloo ruled yesterday that the alliance had made a proper case for urgency and the matter would proceed. He added that it was in the public interest to rule before next week on whether e-tolling should be allowed to go ahead.

Judge Prinsloo is expected to hand down judgment today after first hearing argument from the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the Transport Department and the Treasury in opposition to the granting of an interdict, and then the final responding argument from the alliance and the other supporting applicants.

If Judge Prinsloo had not ruled in favour of the alliance and the other applicants in terms of urgency, they would have had to wait for several months for a court date for their full application to be heard.

Duvenage admitted convincing the court of the urgency of the matter was "a big obstacle" because it allowed the judge to hear arguments in support and against an interdict so he could make a decision. "It was a relief and we won round one but the battle is not over. The biggest obstacle lies ahead, which is obtaining the interdict."

Judge Prinsloo ruled against mainly Afrikaans lobby group Afriforum's application to join the alliance's application as a friend of the court.

Duvenage said the fact that Afriforum's application had been thrown out had not damaged the alliance's case.

He said Judge Prinsloo's decision on Tuesday not to grant the alliance's application to allow it to amend its application to include toll fee exemptions was "not a serious blow".

"Our case is still very strong. Our application (to amend) was late and we realised it had the possibility to change the nature of the case," he said.

Jeremy Gauntlett, senior counsel for the Treasury, said the new amendments to the case had broadened its scope to such an extent that his client would be prejudiced.

David Unterhalter, Sanral's counsel, called for the application for the amendment to be struck from the roll because once the applicants were allowed to move the case to the tariff determination, it was a different case and everybody had to be given an opportunity to respond.

Unterhalter also argued that the alliance and the other applicants had created their own urgency because the toll roads were declared in 2008 and the application should have been made in a reasonable time after the declaration.

However, Judge Prinsloo said yesterday that the fate of e-tolling was uncertain until the announcement made in the Budget speech in February this year that implementation would commence on April 30.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance's application for an interdict to halt e-tolling is based on a number of grounds, including that the planned e-toll process was grossly expensive, inefficient and a waste of citizen's money; it was fundamentally wrong to apply an additional tax or toll against citizens along their daily commuter routes; the e-toll project was unfairly punitive to Gauteng citizens who contributed significantly more in taxes than the value and spending they received in return; and the "user pays" principle, declared by Sanral as a motive, was flawed. gauteng has enough billing problems, e-toll is just another for the masses to ignore and find a way around... sanral should rethink their stance on this one.

Build a new Road then you charge whatever you want as Toll Fees. Its nuts to charge on an existing road.

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