Business 12.9.2016 11:41 am

E-toll wars: Outa ‘fishing for money’

Sanral has dismissed Outa’s claim that its members have been granted immunity from prosecution for not paying e-tolls.

Acrimony keeps rising in the battle over e-toll bills, with Sanral accusing the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) of trying to increase membership by claiming it’s been given immunity from prosecution for nonpayment.

Sanral, the national road authority, has disputed Outa’s claim their respective lawyers have agreed to combine thousands of cases into a test case.

Systemic implosion

Prosecuting thousands of cases individually would potentially cripple the justice system. Sanral at the weekend accused Outa of engaging in a fund-raising drive, after claiming the sides’ lawyers had agreed provisionally to immunise Outa members from legal claims for nonpayment of e-tolls.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona admitted negotiations were happening, but said nothing could be finalised until Outa set out the legal defences it intended to raise in court.

“This will only occur once Outa has pleaded to one of the matters, which it has not yet done,” he added.

Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage suggested Mona speak directly to Sanral’s lawyers.

“The fact is that Sanral’s legal team has agreed with Outa’s lawyers to a test case process. Sanral does not know who Outa’s members are, so the process agreed to is that as and when an Outa member is summonsed by Sanral, the Outa member will notify us of their summons receipt and our lawyers in turn will notify Sanral’s lawyers.”

Sanral accused Outa of bad faith by putting out a press statement while “without prejudice” negotiations between the respective lawyers were underway.

It also questioned Outa’s ability to provide “umbrella cover” to members for legal defence. “If [Outa’s] funds are depleted after the first few cases, will they provide no assistance to the other contributing members?” asks Mona.

And if Outa lost the case, Mona asked if it intended repaying members or assisting them in paying their fines. Duvenage replied the process of discovering each side’s arguments would take time and could become a case within a case, for the court to decide.

Mona suggested Outa was stalling to try build up more membership revenue, adding Outa’s membership conditions indemnified it from liability should its case fail, while members could find themselves holding the payment can.

War chest

Duvenhage claimed Sanral membership was “growing every day, as is our litigation war chest, which has sufficient funds and projections to see the e-toll case through the end”.

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