The Democratic Alliance says it has submitted papers to the High Court for a new challenge that, if successful, could delay the roll out of e-tolls on Gauteng’s freeways.
Speaking at a press function in Rosebank on Thursday (7 November), DA Premier Candidate for Gauteng, Mmusi Maimane, said that papers were served yesterday on President Jacob Zuma, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, the Minister of Transport, and Sanral.
“We have asked the court to hear the matter urgently given the immense impact the rollout of tolling will have on the people of Gauteng.”
Maimane said that, if the DA wins this case in the High Court, the matter will automatically be referred to the Constitutional Court where the e-tolling Bill may be declared unconstitutional.
Zuma signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law towards the end of September, enabling the e-tolling of Gauteng’s freeways through the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
Last month (October), the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) in its e-toll challenge against the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral).
Government aims to implement e-tolling for Gauteng roads before December.
“We are of the view that the ‘e-tolling’ Bill was incorrectly passed by Parliament and signed into law by President Jacob Zuma,” said Maimane.
He noted that the Constitution makes a distinction between Bills that impact on national government only, and Bills that impact on not just national government but provincial governments as well.
“We believe the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill (e-tolling Bill) was wrongfully tagged as a national competency to be dealt with exclusively at a national level by Parliament (called a section 75 Bill).
“However, the tolling of roads impacts on many factors such as urban planning, public transport and traffic regulations – all of which are the competency of provincial governments and municipalities,” the political candidate said.
“Because of this collective responsibility, the Bill should have been dealt with by the National Assembly, the NCOP and all provincial legislatures (called a section 76 Bill),” Maimane said.
He stressed that the legislative procedure is immensely different depending on how a Bill is tagged according to the Constitution.
The DA explained that, after the National Assembly has passed a section 75 Bill (as the e-tolling Bill was tagged), it is referred to the NCOP where each Member votes as an individual.
The system differs for a section 76 Bill.
The DA said that after the National Assembly has passed a section 76 Bill, each provincial legislature must deliberate on a voting mandate for their respective delegates in the National Council of Provinces. The system of MP’s voting as individuals does not apply.
The party explained further that, instead, each provincial delegation in the NCOP must vote according to the decision taken by their provincial legislature. This gives the Gauteng legislature, and potentially a new DA majority there after 2014, the chance to vote against this legislation.
If a majority of delegations representing each province in the NCOP votes against the Bill, a mediation committee is formed to resolve the conflict between the National Assembly and NCOP. If mediation fails, the Bill is referred back to the National Assembly where only a 2/3 majority can override the NCOP and pass the Bill.
The incorrect tagging of the e-tolling Bill effectively prevented provincial legislatures from deliberating on e-tolling on behalf of the affected people of each province, Maimane said.
He pointed out that the e-tolling Bill allows for the rollout of e-tolling not only in Gauteng. It empowers Sanral to start e-tolling in any other province.
“The fact is, legislatures are empowered by the constitution to vote on laws affecting their roads.”
If the Bill is declared unconstitutional it would mean that the National Assembly will have to start their deliberations again, and hold another vote on the Bill. The same will need to happen in each provincial legislature and the National Council of Provinces, the DA said.
It said that it will then oppose the e-tolling Bill in Parliament and every legislature.
“We will also offer Jacob Zuma’s ANC a chance to vote against the Bill and in favour of the public’s immense opposition to e-tolling. A majority vote against the Bill would defeat e-tolling once and for all,” Maimane said.
The DA has long said it is committed to fighting urban e-tolls on major commuter highways.
In October, it erected billboards along Johannesburg’s highways next to e-toll gantries, poking fun at the African National Congress and its role in the electronic tolling saga.
The political party also contributed R1 million to Outa to help fund its bid to fight e-tolls in court, following a public call on 5 June to assist the opposition alliance in funding its court action.
This article was first published on BusinessTech.