Sanral’s Winelands Toll Highway papers will be made public

Democratic Alliance and Right2Know Campaign members picket outside the Western Cape High Court. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Democratic Alliance and Right2Know Campaign members picket outside the Western Cape High Court. Picture Credit: Gallo Images

Applications by Sanral and the Protea Parkway Consortium (PPC) to keep certain court documents on the N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway project secret were dismissed by the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

However, Judge Ashley Binns-Ward made orders that would effectively keep certain information under wraps until the court started to review the SA National Roads Agency Limited's (Sanral) decision to toll the roads. No review date had yet been set.

Sanral had applied to the court to prevent the City of Cape Town from filing its supplementary founding papers in an open court.

Binns-Ward said the city could file its papers per normal court procedure, but that no one could disseminate or publish the administrative record or any affidavit in the supplementary papers before the review hearing.

Sanral had divided the content in the city's papers into two categories of information.

The first category related to the proposed project's costs, which Sanral argued would cause "unjustified and unnecessary concern among the general public" if released prematurely.

It argued it would result in unjustified antagonism and bias towards Sanral by the general public.

It believed the city, in its supplementary founding papers, which contained expert opinions, was trying to convey that the decision to toll was financially untenable.

Sanral asked that the information be kept out of the public domain until it had filed its answering affidavit with its own expert opinions.

Binns-Ward found seeking such relief was unnecessary because all relevant applicants and respondents were bound by the court to use the information only for the review application, not for a "collateral or ulterior purpose".

This meant the city was not allowed to disseminate or publish the information because it would amount to contempt of court.

The second category of information in the city's supplementary founding papers related to the tender process, which was still outstanding. It included commercial information on the bidders, the debt funding competition, and Sanral's bid evaluation.

Sanral had argued that releasing this before the review hearing "would cause harm and damage to Sanral, bidders in the tender process, the SA fiscus and economy, and the general public".

It said the disclosure of such would fall foul of Sanral's statutory obligations.

The court held the applicants had failed to present a factual case that proved this category of information should be seen as confidential, and thus no relief was granted.

However, the court found the public and other bidders would in any way not have unregulated access to the court file before the review hearing.

Democratic Alliance provincial leader Ivan Meyer said he was delighted by "the victory scored" by the DA-led city in court.

In May last year, the city was granted an interim interdict to halt the proposed project, which would remain in force until the review hearing.