The war between the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) and its nemesis the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has taken a new twist, with the organisations at odds over e-tolls legal battles.
Yesterday, Outa issued a statement saying pending the completion of an e-toll test case process that started in June 2016, all current and future Outa members are now provisionally immune from legal claims by Sanral for non-payment of e-tolls.
Sanral recently noted it has prepared approximately 6 500 summonses targeting e-toll defaulters.
Outa claims that after several months of negotiation, Sanral has, through its lawyers, finally agreed to stay all legal claims against members of the public who either already are, or will in future become Outa members.
“The agreement effectively grants the entire Outa member community immunity until the case is complete. Our aim is to show that e-tolling is unlawful in the test case, and should we succeed, the stay of legal claims will become permanent,” said Wayne Duvenage, chairman of Outa.
However, Sanral says the statement by Outa purporting that a legal agreement had been reached on a test e-tolls case is false.
“It is nothing more than a fundraising exercise by Outa,” says Vusi Mona, Sanral spokesperson.
The roads agency says while the legal teams from the agency and Outa are in discussions about a test case and Sanral has indicated they agree in principle to such a process, an agreement can only be reached once Outa sets out its legal defences which it intends to raise in a collateral review.
This will only occur once Outa has pleaded to one of the matters, which it has not yet done, it adds.
Sanral believes a test case will lessen the burden on the courts, costs for all parties and set legal precedent that will assist in all the other matters where similar legal arguments will follow.
According to Mona, despite various cases taking place in the past with the Pretoria High Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court all finding in favour of Sanral, Outa believes there is an opportunity to again attack the legality of tolling based on a collateral review.
Sanral is confident the toll system is legal, given the outcome of previous toll cases but it is up to the legal system to make that determination in terms of any new challenges, he points out.
“Going to the media with a statement that an agreement exists is a clear misrepresentation as there has been no final agreement in this regard. In particular, there is no agreement whatsoever that Outa members will be immune from legal action. Outa’s statement coincides with their drive for late membership application,” says Mona.
Get the facts
Outa this morning said it stands by its statement that Sanral’s lawyers agreed with Outa’s lawyers to have a test case process proceed.
“There is no confusion here and if Vusi Mona denies this, he needs to get the facts from Werksmans who are representing them on this matter. The fact is that Sanral’s legal team has agreed with Outa’s lawyers to a test case process,” says Duvenage.
“Sanral do not know who Outa’s members are, so the process agreed to is that as and when an Outa member is summonsed by Sanral, the Outa member will notify us of their summons receipt and our lawyers, in turn, will notify Sanral’s lawyers. We receive queries and questions on a daily basis from the public and the media on the e-toll matter. Thus, we felt it necessary to reveal this recent development to the media on this very important public interest matter.”
Outa adds that at this stage of the legal process, the organisations’ respective legal teams are thrashing out the details and information required in Sanral’s declarations, in order to ensure this case can begin.
“Once we have agreed to these matters, which in itself may become a legal case within a case, only then can we move on to the next stage, which will see the development of the pleas and affidavits that will eventually be heard in court. Unfortunately, these matters take a while to go through the normal court process and it is not our desire or strategy to drag this matter out. This is unfortunately the grind of the legal process in South Africa,” says Duvenage.
Regarding the membership drive accusation that Mona levelled against Outa, Duvenage says: “We find it amusing that Vusi Mona describes our statement as a membership drive exercise. Our membership base, which consists of tens of thousands of individuals, families and businesses, is growing every day, as is our litigation war chest, which has sufficient funds and projections to see the e-toll case through the end.”