The company that operates the electronic National Traffic Information System (eNaTIS) has won a court victory in its long running battle with the department of transport for control of the system.
A Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling this week halts the immediate transfer of the system from operator Tasima to the Department of Transport and its Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
The SCA on Wednesday set aside a judgment passed in the Pretoria high court by Judge Wendy Hughes in June which held that a five-year extension of the contract between the department and Tasima signed in 2010 by former director-general George Mahlalela was invalid.
The appeal court also held that the department was in contempt of a number of court orders passed between 2012 and 2013 which ordered the department to perform its obligations in terms of the agreement between it and Tasima‚ pending the finalisation of the dispute resolution proceedings provided for in the agreement.
The appeal court ordered the RTMC to desist from transferring the eNaTIS and its services without the “transfer management plan” envisaged in the initial agreement signed in 2001.
The judgment means the department should call a meeting with Tasima to ensure a smooth transition of the contract.
Tasima was granted a tender in 2001 to develop the eNaTIS for the department for a five-year period starting in 2002. eNaTIS is responsible for‚ among other functions‚ the management of all licensing requirements and traffic systems.
The parties signed an agreement according to which‚ if the agreement was terminated‚ the department could request a “transfer management plan” meeting from Tasima within 90 days and the department and Tasima must agree on a transfer management plan within 30 days of such request.
However‚ the department wanted to terminate the agreement in 2012 without requesting a transfer management plan as contemplated in the contract.
Tasima then went to court and obtained an order directing that the department perform its obligations in terms of the agreement‚ pending the finalisation of the dispute resolution proceedings provided for in the agreement.
When the department ignored the order‚ Tasima brought no fewer than seven contempt of court applications‚ and succeeded every time.
This year‚ Tasima brought applied before Judge Hughes for an order that the department and the RTMC should be interdicted from transferring the eNaTIS. The department in turn launched a counter-application challenging the validity of the 2010 extension.
“I do not share [Judge Hughes’s] view that the setting aside of the impugned extension would insulate the[department and the RTMC] from a finding that they were in contempt of court‚” Judge of Appeal Fritz Brand said.
He said the setting aside of a contract which formed the basis of a court order did not excuse the failure to comply with it.
Brand said Tasima was not seeking to compel performance of a contract‚ but performance of court orders in its favour.
“Hence the illegality or otherwise of the contract is of no consequence as long as the orders stand.”