Toll court bid hits end of the road

Motorists on the N1 outgoing make their way home after work. Regular users of the road have been spared tolling for now.

Bikers Against Tolls said the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of the bid by the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL) for leave to appeal in the N1 and N2 tolling case was the “best news”.

Richard Green, of Goodwood, speaking on behalf of the motorcycle activist group, said: “But that’s not to say that there is nothing more to do.”

On Friday February 10, the court dismissed Sanral’s application for leave to appeal against the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment preventing it from tolling the N1 and N2, bringing to an end the legal battle between the City of Cape Town and the roads agency, which began in March 2012 (“Sanral’s secrets exposed,” Northern News, April 9, 2015).

This means that if Sanral wants to continue with its bid to toll the roads it will have to start its submission process from the beginning again.

Should this happen, “we will be there to fight again”, Mr Green said.

The City of Cape Town and the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry have both railed against Sanral for not consulting properly with the public during its first submission.

“Sanral has no choice but to concede that they followed an improper and unlawful process,” said Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development.

The Constitutional Court also ordered Sanral to pay all the City’s legal costs. This amounts to more than R20 million, excluding Sanral’s legal costs or those of other national government departments involved in prior litigation.

In September last year, a full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein, unanimously ruled in the City’s favour and declared invalid the Sanral board’s decision to toll sections of the N1 and N2 freeways.

In his judgment, Judge Mahomed Navsa from the SCA said “the tolling of national roads has become a burning issue in public and political debate”.

Mr Herron said: “All political decision-makers on national, provincial and local government level, as well as public entities such as Sanral, are obliged to follow due process and to act within the law when they intend to implement projects that will affect the community at large.

“Public participation is pivotal in terms of what is understood to be ‘due process’. Thus, there would be an obligation on Sanral to follow a public participation process about the intent to toll, should they decide that this is the way forward for the N1 and N2 freeways. Public and interested parties, as well as the City of Cape Town, must have the opportunity to comment and provide their views on any future intention Sanral may have to toll sections of the N1 and N2 freeways.”

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, complimented the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, which was formerly known as the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, (OUTA) for the work it had done in informing the public.

“When the plans were first announced, there were widespread objections from the chamber, the City council, the province and other credible organisations, but these were simply ignored. When a new public participation process begins, Sanral will find that it has to deal with a well-informed public thanks to the work done by the City council and organisations like Outa.

“We now have benchmark figures for road construction costs, and we have seen how tolling facilities simply add to the cost of road building. There is no longer a way for Sanral to ride roughshod over public opinion,” Ms Myburgh said.

She said Sanral had done good work over the years and it was a pity its failure to understand genuine public concerns had damaged its reputation.

“I hope we can look forward to a new era of co-operation and better planning. We have major road transport problems in South Africa, and all the authorities will have to work together if we are to solve them,” Ms Myburgh said.

Sanral, however, says it has adopted a “new perspective”.

“As reaffirmed by our new CEO, we will continue to engage the City of Cape Town to find a solution to the growing congestion crisis in the Winelands area. Discussions with the City have already started,” said Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona.

In a statement, Sanral said it was embarking on a “new consultative approach”.

“This is the new perspective within the roads agency which its recently appointed CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma seeks to ingrain,” the statement said.

Mr Mona said: “Our constitution requires of us, as the different spheres of government, to work together in order to deliver services to citizens.”