The South African taxpayer will once again have to cough up for the transport department’s “deliberate and wilfull” failure to comply with six court orders to pay the National Traffic Information System (eNatis) operator Tasima.
The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria yesterday granted the ninth contempt order since 2012 against the department and gave it just two days to pay Tasima more than R33 million.
This was despite the pending outcome of an appeal to the Constitutional Court against a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in favour of Tasima and a pending criminal trial against Tasima.
In the latest legal skirmish, Judge Cynthia Pretorius ruled that the department, its director-general Christopher Hlabisa and two of its top officials had wilfully ignored no less than six court orders against them and that the Road Traffic Management Corporation was in breach of two court orders.
The director-general and four transport officials were sentenced to 30 days’ imprisonment, which will become enforceable if they once again failed to comply with court orders.
One of the court orders that was ignored was one in terms of which the department undertook to pay over R104.2 million to Tasima by May 25, of which a portion had to be paid into an escrow account.
The escrow account was never opened, and the department failed to pay a substantial portion of the amount.
ALSO READ >> Public pays for transport department’s blunder
Tasima in April obtained a court order allowing it full access to continue operating the eNatis system, despite the department’s allegations of “fraud and corruption”.
The department initially insisted it did not have to pay Tasima because of their appeal, but Tasima went to court to enforce the original order, following which a settlement was reached but not fully honoured.
The department and Tasima, which developed and continues to operate the country’s electronic national traffic information system, have been involved in a series of acrimonious legal battles since 2012.
Tasima has warned that the eNatis system faced total collapse because of the department’s refusal to comply with court orders or to pay for the continued operation of the system.
The department maintained the extension of Tasima’s agreement in 2010 was unlawful and was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, but Tasima accused the department of abusing state power, engineering unsubstantiated criminal charges to bolster its civil case and of unlawfully trying to transfer the system to a third party.