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OUTA’s legal e-toll battle looks bleak

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s (OUTA) legal battle against the South African government is looking bleak after the original Constitutional Court’s ruling that policy decisions must not be meddled with by the courts.

Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert, told the Mail & Guardian: “The original Constitutional Court judgement blasted a hole into OUTA’s legal argument.”

HumanIPO reported yesterday (Tuesday) OUTA was “confident” the ruling by the High Court in December against them would be overturned following their announcement of appeal. The legal battle driven by OUTA maintains the government did not do enough to consult the public on the e-tolling system which will charge motorists who use the upgraded Gauteng highways.

In line with OUTA’s legal battle, the alliance filed documents this week at the North Gauteng High Court for leave to appeal the ruling that has given the green light to the South African Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) to carry out the controversial system.

The High Court’s judgement in favour of SANRAL, the demand OUTA is to pay the legal costs involved and the ruling against the application requesting e-tolling be reviewed and set aside indicates OUTA’s chances of fighting this battle further are slim.

“I would be very surprised if the SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) decides to take a different view on this matter,” said de Vos.

Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s chairperson, told the Mail and Guardian that despite the fact he is optimistic, he believes this is OUTA’s final legal challenge. He said: “If this appeal does fail, I don’t see us going any further.”

Duvenage added: “We have a strong case. The members of OUTA would rather go for this and put it behind them if it was a lost cause.”

OUTA’s legal battle is described by de Vos as a “political fight” without “adequate legal footing”.

“Government decides this type of thing; it’s a political matter. If we don’t like it, we have a democratic right to vote against the party in government at the next election,” he said.

Advocate Norman Arendse supports de Vos’ statement: “The original judgement that resulted in a court interdict preventing e-tolls from being rolled out overstepped the boundaries in the separation of powers and that is certainly going to weigh on their legal challenge.”

Arendse believes OUTA’s legal bid remains important despite the prodigious odds against it. He said: “It was always going to be a stretch, but this legal conversation must be had as it provides judicial clarity on the separation of powers between the executive, the courts and Parliament.”

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