The Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance in its e-toll challenge.
The Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) on Wednesday in its e-toll challenge against the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).
Judge Fritz Brand said the appeal was refused and no order for costs was made. And the judge said the order granted by the high court in Pretoria directing the appellants to pay the respondents' costs was set aside and replaced by an order that there be no order for costs.
The high court granted Outa leave to appeal against a previous judgment it handed down in December, dismissing its bid to have the e-tolls scrapped.
Outa argued that the court misinterpreted a section of the Sanral Act on public consultation to reach its ruling that e-tolling could proceed.
Last year, the high court ruled that e-tolling could proceed because the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project had been lawfully instituted.
Outa is a civic action group of business associations and individuals formed in March 2012 to challenge Sanral's decision to implement e-tolling of the recently upgraded freeway network in Gauteng.
Outa believed e-tolling was illegal and unreasonable.
Signed into law
President Jacob Zuma has signed into law the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill – paving the way for e-tolling, the presidency said on September 25.
The signing came on the same day that the appeal court heard arguments in Outa's case.
Outa argued that legislation allowed Sanral to explore options other than tolling to fund Gauteng's freeways and should have done so despite Cabinet's approval of electronic tolling.
"Even bound by the Cabinet decision, they [Sanral] still had to follow the procedures of the Act," said Mike Maritz, for Outa.
Sanral should have considered that the Sanral Act allowed it the opportunity to explore other funding options, and should not have been bound by Cabinet's decision that the project be funded with public money through e-tolling.
Judge Brand asked whether Sanral should have ignored Cabinet's decision.
Maritz said Sanral should have kept an open mind and taken all options into consideration.
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 nationa treasury appealed the court order.
In September last year, the Constitutional Court set aside the interim order, and in December, the high court dismissed the application.
The court granted Outa leave on January 25 this year to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
On Monday, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said e-tolls would be implemented by the end of the year.
Outa chairperson, Wayne Duvenage, said Outa was studying the appeal court's judgment and would comment on its implications at a press conference to be convened on Thursday.