Ruling on e-tolling welcome
THE decision by the Pretoria High Court to halt theimplementation of the e-tolls should be welcomed.
On Saturday, Judge Bill Prinsloo granted the Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) an interdict halting the implementation of Gauteng's much-contested e-tolling system.
Granting the interdict Judge Prinsloo said : "People are held captive by the toll roads.
"I make the following order... the first respondent [SA National Roads Agency] is interdicted and restrained from levying and collecting tolls." The public gallery applauded.
Now, after being postponed five times, the e-toll system will have to wait for the outcome of a court review.
Given the support that the controversial project had received from the government - both the Treasury and the Ministry of Transport had expressed their support for the project - there was an expectation that the court may relent to "political pressure" anddismiss Outa's application.
By granting the interdict Judge Prinsloo has once more asserted the independence of the judiciary.
By arguing that the people were going to be held captive by the e-tolls, Judge Prinsloo has confirmed one of the basic tenets of democracy - that the government should govern in the interest of the people.
In so doing, the judge has nullified the argument by the Treasury that halting the implementation of the e-tolls would impact on the government's ability to attract foreign investment.
In supporting the implementation of the e-tolls, the Treasury argued that halting the project would create an impression that South Africa was unstable for foreign investment.
By granting the interdict Judge Prinsloo has actually confirmed that the inverse applies - that is, if the tolls were implemented regardless of the public opposition to the project, this would create the kind of instability that is averse to any foreign investment.
What the decision also says is that the government should go back to the drawing board and, together with the broader South African community, explore alternative means of funding the improvement of our public roads in a manner acceptable to all.
The reality is that our country needs to maintain its freeways and public roads, but this cannot be done in a top-down manner that excludes the very people who are supposed to benefit from such efforts.