The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) believes the merits of the case against etolls have not been considered in court yet and will decide on Monday whether it will take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Apart from the mandate from its members, it needs a further R3 million for such a challenge, Wayne Duvenhage, chairperson of Outa said at a press briefing on Thursday. The organisation still has a deficit of R1.5 million on its legal costs so far and estimates that a Constitutional challenge will cost another R1.5 million.
Further legal action will however not delay the implementation of etolls and individuals must decide for themselves whether to obtain etags and register for etolls or not, he said. He added that the decision can be quite complex for businesses.
Duvenhage reacted to the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) dismissal of an appeal by Outa against an earlier North Gauteng High Court judgement on the grounds that the application was brought too late. The SCA said the clock could not be turned back and a lot of what happened in the five years since the roads were declared toll roads cannot be undone.
He described the judgement as “astounding” and said the SCA failed motorists by focusing on a technical issue that could have been condoned and not considering what Outa see as the unlawfulness of the tolls decision.
Another option is that any motorist can refuse to pay their tolls and, when prosecuted, put the alleged unlawfulness of the system in front of the court, he said.
Ari Searlis, CEO of the QuadPara Association of South Africa (Qasa), said very few disabled people own their own cars and are reliant on other vehicle owners for transport, since public transport is inadequate. The etolls system is based on vehicle ownership and Qasa members are therefore excluded from registering for etags. If they could register, they could at least give their etag to the person who helps them with transport, but with the current system the Samaritan will have to bear the cost.
Searlis said efforts to negotiate a better deal for Qasa members with the South African National roads Agency (Sanral) have fallen on deaf ears and efforts to get assistance from the ministry of women, children and people with disabilities were unsuccessful. Qasa might take the case to the Equality Court.
In a statement read on behalf of a group of concerned church leaders, rev. Moss Ntlha warned against the impact of etolls on the poor and warned that the issue can lead to open conflict between “motorists, toll operators and agents of law and order”.
Duvenhage bemoaned the heavy-handed tactics that Sanral is apparently planning to use to enforce etolls, saying it is reminiscent of the Apartheid system.
The church group, which includes the South African Council of Churches, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference Justice and Peace Department, the evangelical Alliance of South Africa, some African Independent churches and the South African Christian Leaders Initiative questioned whether government is acting righteously with regard to etolls.
“As always, Christians should make their decisions after careful thought and prayer, and on moral grounds like the pursuit of justice and common good – rather than deciding on the basis of what suits our pockets. We will be told that Christians should obey their government and pay taxes, but that presumes that our government is governing righteously. In this case that is exactly the problem we face.”
A Cosatu committee will decide on further protest action against etolls on Friday.