The Supreme Court of Appeal's dismissal of the Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance's (Outa) challenge against e-tolls was welcomed by the transport department on Wednesday, but Cosatu vowed to continue the fight.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said the government had fulfilled the legal requirements relating to the introduction of e-tolling on Gauteng's highways.
"The verdict handed down by the appeal court is a confirmation of the earlier finding of the high court [in Pretoria] that, after a thorough review of the challenge brought before it, ruled that there was sufficient consultation carried out by government."
The transport department encouraged motorists to register for e-tags so they could benefit from the associated discounts.
Appeal court Judge Fritz Brand made no cost order in handing down his judgment.
However, he set aside the order granted by the high court in Pretoria directing Outa to pay the South African National Road Agency Limited's (Sanral) costs, and replaced it with a ruling that there be no costs order.
Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi also welcomed the appeal court decision.
'No difference' to Cosatu
But Cosatu said the judge's ruling made no difference to its campaign against e-tolls.
"This decision will make no difference to Cosatu's unwavering campaign against this attempt to privatise our public highways," said spokesperson Patrick Craven. "Our roads are a public asset already paid for through taxation and the fuel levy, and motorists should not therefore have to pay again to drive on these public highways."
Sanral said the appeal court's dismissal of Outa's appeal added certainty to e-tolling.
"As Sanral, it has always been our view that we have done things according to the law," its chief executive, Nazir Alli, said in a statement. "It is regrettable that a purely infrastructural matter has been so politicised and resulted in unnecessary polarisation … My appeal to everyone is … let us join hands and move on. We have infrastructure to build, but critically, a country to build."
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said the fight against e-tolls was now in the hands of the voters of Gauteng.
"E-tolling will kill jobs in Gauteng and make it harder for people to make ends meet," DA spokesperson Mmusi Maimane said in a statement. "The power of the vote is the surest way to stop tolls."
Maimane said this was not the end of the road in the fight against e-tolls.
Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage said the alliance and its lawyers were studying Brand's judgment.
The Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa said it was a travesty that the voices of the public had not been heard.
"The ongoing fight against e-tolls has not been about users refusing to pay for improved roads, but rather about the unnecessary, exorbitant and unacceptable additional costs that the e-toll system imposes on the citizens of Gauteng," it said.
Joining the fight
The AA called on the government to provide transparency on what the current national fuel levy of R2.13 per litre was being allocated. It called for a dedicated fund derived from this levy for road infrastructure improvement to address the road maintenance backlog.
The Freedom Front Plus said it would join the legal battle against the tolling system.
"The public should, however, not lose hope as there is still an opportunity for Outa to turn to the Constitutional Court," said the party's parliamentary spokesperson Anton Alberts.
The Economic Freedom Fighters in Gauteng said it was disappointed by the ruling.
"Although we respect the rule of law, we will never tell our people to respect laws that are unjust and allow government to impose itself on people," the party said in a statement.
"The fact that a lot of work has been done on e-tolls should not be the reason to promote this daylight robbery." – Sapa