3 minute read
13 Mar 2014
3:55 pm

E-tolling judgment welcomed

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has welcomed a judgment dismissing an application challenging the constitutionality of e-tolling legislation.

FILE PICTURE: E-toll objectors gather, 25 January 2014, at the Portuguese Hall in Joburg South, before taking part in a mass protest drive along the tolled highways. Picture: Michel Bega

“It must be noted by all that we have been to various courts on this matter of e-tolling wherein various aspects of the process were queried,” she said on Thursday.

“In all these processes the judiciary found that there was nothing untoward or illegal about the processes followed by government and/or its agencies.”

She called on all concerned parties to observe, respect and protect the independence of the judicial system by not continuing to question government processes after courts had made a pronouncement.

The country’s needs for infrastructure should not be turned into a political game in which parties “hijacked” genuine concerns for their own interests, she said.

“Misinformation campaigns and other means have been exhausted in trying to dissuade citizens from complying with laws of the Republic and contribute towards the building of a better country.”

She said an increasing number of people had registered for e-tags in Gauteng despite these attempts.

The Democratic Alliance approached the Western Cape High Court after the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill was enacted in September last year.

The amendments were primarily intended to facilitate the electronic monitoring of traffic through toll plazas and the electronic collection of the tolls.

The DA had argued the amendments were unconstitutional and invalid because they had not been passed according to what it deemed to be proper procedure, which would be with input from the provinces.

Western Cape High Court Judge Owen Rogers dismissed the application on Thursday and said it was clear in his mind that provincial legislatures had no power to pass legislation aimed at meeting the purposes identified in the act.

The DA was not ordered to pay costs because Rogers believed the case had raised “genuine and substantive constitutional issues”.

DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said the party intended filing an application for leave to appeal against the judgment.

Parliament and Sanral welcomed the judgment in their favour.

“We urge those who have questioned the legality of this bill to respect the court’s judgment,” SA National Roads Agency Limited spokesman Vusi Mona said.

Parliament said the judgment had vindicated two of the respondents, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chairman Mninwa Mahlangu.

“The judgment is a vindication for the Parliamentary process which was followed in the enactment of the [amendment] act and the role of the Joint Tagging Mechanism in exercising its constitutional function.”

The bill was tagged as a section 75 bill — an ordinary bill not affecting provinces — rather than a section 76 bill, which does affect provinces.

The tagging has implications for voting procedures and the power of the majority party in Parliament.

A section 75 bill is still referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) so it can decide whether to accept, reject or recommend amendments.

However, the National Assembly ultimately decides whether to pass the bill with or without amendments, or not proceed with the bill at all.

With a section 75 bill, the voting procedure is more likely to result in a majority vote in the NCOP which accords with the majority in the National Assembly.

A section 76 bill is different in that it is referred to a mediation committee if the NCOP rejects the bill or if the National Assembly declines to pass it with recommended amendments.

It also enforces one vote per delegation.

This means that should the bill be rejected by the NCOP and not resolved by the mediation committee, the National Assembly cannot force the legislation through except with a two-thirds majority.

The respondents in the application were President Jacob Zuma, Sisulu, Mahlangu, Peters, Sanral, and the National Treasury.

The respondents had argued that the amendments did not add substantial measures to the existing Sanral Act.

Even if further e-tolling was introduced on the strength of the amendments, the respondents argued that effects on functional areas of concurrent national and provincial competence would not be substantial.

Rogers said provinces would be at liberty to enact legislation in future to alter laws that affected them in terms of significantly changing traffic patterns, trade and urban development.