It is back to the drawing board for the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) and the country’s transport department after the North Gauteng High Court interdicted the government from implementing the multi-billion rand e-tolling road payment system.
The system was supposed to be implemented this coming week but hit a snag when an alliance of citizen groups headed to court to halt the system
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) approached the High Court last week to stop the implementation of the system on the economic capital, Gauteng’s highways.
Gauteng represents about one third of South Africa’s gross domestic product. Judge Bill Prinsloo’s judgment said the system would have a negative impact on people’s lives.
“After careful considerations of the arguments, the applicant has managed to cross this hurdle,” he ruled. “I am persuaded that the applicants have managed a prima facie case to have the decision reviewed.”
Also read: Cosatu denounces e-tolling blackmail
This weekend’s court’s ruling means that the system must be halted until the court heard a full hearing of the case and decide whether it should be scrapped or not. This could only happen in the next two to three months.
Sanral said that the postponement of the system would cost the country about 200 million rand per month. The government is the guarantor for SANRAL’s 20 million rand debt.
Prinsloo said while he realised SANRAL would suffer huge financial losses, members of the public would also experience hardships if the controversial project went ahead.
The citizens’ alliance, described the court victory as “historic.”
Also read: Are toll roads fair for Africa?
Reacting to the ruling, leader South Africa largest trade union federation, Cosatu Zwelinzima Vavi tweeted: “people united will never be defeated”- well done for uniting irrespective of other usual differences”.
Cosatu had described the e-tolling as “the act of highway robbery” and was set to call its members to the streets to voice their anger and dismay at the system.
Last week, an urgent meeting was called between the ruling ANC and Cosatu to discuss the system and it was agreed to postpone its introduction.
According to the Sunday Times newspaper, SANRAL refused to answer questions from the media and the Transport ministry said it respected the court ruling and will study the judgement before deciding the next course of action.
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