It was unwise of President Jacob Zuma to sign the e-tolling bill into law, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) has said.
“Outa is surprised at this decision, bearing in mind 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,” chairperson Wayne Duvenage said in a statement today.
Outa was awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA) ruling on its appeal against e-tolling.
SCA Judge Fritz Brand yesterday reserved judgment on whether the e-tolling of Gauteng’s freeways should be reviewed.
The appeal was brought by Outa in its legal challenge against the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), the transport minister, and the National Treasury.
It was also announced yesterday that Zuma had signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law – paving the way for e-tolling.
Sanral had previously said it was ready to roll out the system.
Duvenage said it would have been wise for Zuma to wait for the outcome of the court decision.
“But even if that rules in their favour, Sanral’s biggest hurdle has yet to come, that being the public’s buy-in and acceptance of its cumbersome and irrational plan,” he said.
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 also reassure investors that Sanral was able to meet its financial obligations, he said.
“The delay in the announcement of the toll-commencement date had put our toll portfolio under pressure,” said Alli.
“The signing of this law will ease the pressure and eliminate doubt in the minds of many road users who were waiting for certainty around e-tolling.”
Alli said the new act would promote upgrading and developing the country’s transport infrastructure.
The Democratic Alliance said it would continue to oppose e-tolling.
“The DA urges the public not to despair now that the president has chosen to ignore the immense opposition to tolling,” spokesperson 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 DA, among other organisations and individuals, helped fund Outa’s appeal.
E-tolls have also been rejected by the Congress of SA Trade Unions.
In April 2012, the high court in Pretoria granted Outa an interdict approving a full judicial review before electronic tolling could be put into effect.
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.
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