South Africa 26.9.2013 04:51 pm

Mixed reaction to signing of e-tolls law

FILE PICTURE: An e- toll  sign prices along N1 next to Douglasdale. Picture: Nigel Sibanda.

FILE PICTURE: An e- toll sign prices along N1 next to Douglasdale. Picture: Nigel Sibanda.

There was mixed reaction from civil society, political parties, and trade unions on Thursday on the signing of the e-tolling bill into law.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said it was unwise of President Jacob Zuma to sign the law.

“Outa is surprised at this decision, bearing in mind that recent reports indicate the presidency was going to take some time to consider the questions relating to the correct tagging of the bill before signing it into law,” chairman Wayne Duvenage said in a statement.

Outa was awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) ruling on its appeal against electronic-tolling. On Wednesday, SCA Judge Fritz Brand reserved judgment on whether the e-tolling of Gauteng’s freeways should be reviewed.

It was announced on Wednesday that Zuma had signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law paving the way for e-tolling. Sanral CEO Nazir Alli welcomed the passing of the bill into law.

“We at Sanral have never doubted the commitment of the president to the policies of the government he leads,” Alli said in a statement. Zuma’s announcement would reassure investors that Sanral was able to meet its financial obligations, he said.

The Democratic Alliance said it would continue opposing e-tolling. It was one of the organisations that helped fund Outa’s appeal. “The DA urges the public not to despair now that the president has chosen to ignore the immense opposition to tolling,” spokesman Mmusi Maimane said in a statement.

“We will take our opposition to tolls to the streets, and we will explore every possible angle to fight it here in Gauteng, the courts, and in Parliament.” The African Christian Democratic Party said small businesses would be hit hard by e-tolling.

“Many of the small businesses operating in Gauteng are subsistence operations with very small profit margins. Any increase in input costs always hurts them badly,” the party’s Gauteng chairman Meshack van Wyk said in a statement.

“Our hawkers and spaza shop-owners will suffer as a result of e-tolls, because they have to pay the transport costs of fetching their stock from vegetable markets and wholesalers.” The transport department welcomed the news.

“This positive development provides the necessary legal framework and paves way for the implementation of the electronic tolling system on selected highways in Gauteng, covering at least 200 km of road network,” it said in a statement.

“The minister of transport will now attend to the remaining procedural matters related to the implementation process.”

An alliance of leaders of the SA Council of Churches, SA Catholic Bishops Conference, the Evangelical Alliance of SA, and SA Christian Leaders said it was surprised by the move.

“We had no indication that this was imminent, but this does not change our confidence that government will continue to engage… to resolve matters, rather than proceeding with the implementation of a system that has been so widely rejected by our people,” it said in a joint statement.

“Regardless of what happens in court, we will continue to insist that government takes the interests of all the citizens into account in making such decisions, especially the interests of the poor and marginalised.”

The Congress of SA Trade Unions has also rejected e-tolls.

In April 2012, the High Court in Pretoria granted Outa an interdict approving a full judicial review before e-tolling could be implemented. The interdict prevented Sanral from levying or collecting e-tolls, pending the outcome of a review. Sanral and the Treasury appealed the court order.

In September last year, the Constitutional Court set aside the interim order and, in December, the High Court in Pretoria dismissed the application.

The court granted Outa leave on January 25 this year to take the matter to the SCA in Bloemfontein.

Sapa

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