“The next two days is going to present quite an overload of information to the panel. I hope they are prepared for it and are not too overwhelmed by what Sanral (the SA National Roads Agency Ltd) and company seem to have lined up for them,” Justice Project SA (JPSA) chairperson Howard Dembovsky said.
This, after Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and Acting Director-General of Transport, Mawethu Vilana, made presentations to the panel on Tuesday.
“I believe that she (Peters) went further to threaten to pull out of the process if Sanral are ‘taken on’. I was under the impression that the review panel’s mandate is to get to the bottom of things and come up with an unbiased report.”
This occurred when a legal expert on the panel said told Peters that he would reserve some of his questions for Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, according to the SA Press Association.
The expert reportedly said this would be to “take him on” to answer his questions.
“I don’t think we came here for those type of things.
“We didn’t know we were here for a judicial process.
“If that is the approach that some people will be ‘taken on’, then chairperson, I don’t think we will go ahead,” she was quoted as saying.
Speaking on his own presentations to the panel, Dembovsky said: “I was subjected to rigorous questions by the members of the panel when I presented on behalf of JPSA to them. So was every other group. What makes Sanral and the department so special that they get to lecture the panel and not answer questions? Oh yeah, I forgot. They tell people. They don’t engage with them.”
What was of “real concern”, he added, was that Peters had conceded that e-tolling is not a perfect system, yet tried to convince the panel that it is the only way to go.
The panel was appointed by Gauteng premier David Makhura, following a widespread outcry over the system.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said that Peters had played “power” and had forsaken authority.
“…It appears that minister Peters is using the opportunity afforded by the Gauteng Advisory Panel to go on the offensive and accuse the e-toll critics of spreading lies and half-truths,” Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage said.
Peters said on Tuesday that “spurious allegations” about Sanral “milking it” or “profiting at the expense of the public” must be stopped.
“This appears as a new rattling of the legal adversarial sabre and is totally uncalled for, especially in the light of Outa’s exposure of many misleading statements and fabrications by Sanral executives on the e-Toll decision,”
Peters opening comments appeared to be aimed at “slapping down the Gauteng Provincial Government”, he said.
“We have repeatedly argued the unworkability of e-tolls and following a year of operation, all evidence of the current fiasco has proved us correct.
“They can try to force the people to submit, but they can’t force them to co-operate. Should the authorities ever attempt to do so, they must be prepared for the consequences of their actions,” Duvenage said.