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Crunch time for Outa

The SCA is currently hearing Outa's legal bid to try and prevent e-tolling from going ahead.

E-tolls. Photo: Lesego Ngobeni/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers representing the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) have again accused the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) of misleading the public and failing to provide enough information about the controversial e-tolling project.

The Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) in Bloemfontein is currently hearing Outa's legal bid to stop the multibillion Rand project from going ahead.

The alliance is appealing an earlier judgment in favour of Sanral.

Despite initially securing an urgent interdict against e-tolling in April last year, Outa is yet to convince a court to intervene in government policy.

Meanwhile, the court fired questions at Outa's advocate, Mike Maritz about what would happen if the project were scrapped and whether courts should intervene in government policy.

Maritz says procedural fairness demands the project be stopped.

"We are confronted with a given that the public will be expected to fund this exorbitant amount by means of tolling over an extended period of time. The government and Sanral might in future change their minds about that, but at the moment, this is what is confronting us."

Questions have also been raised by the court about whether Sanral was bound by government policy and had no choice but to push ahead with e-tolling.

Outa's Wayne Duvenage and Sanral CEO Nazir Alli are both in court.

There's still no clarity on when e-tolling will begin even after government promised that it will be before the end of the year.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and the Department of Transport have for some time claimed they are ready to switch on the system and begin the multibillion Rand project once President Jacob Zuma has signed a required bill into law.

Reports have also emerged that the President may be waiting until after next year's elections to sign the required bill.

'OUTA CONFIDENT'

Outa expressed confidence in the strength of its case ahead of its court appearance.

"We are very confident. The case is very strong and we've maintained that all along. We wouldn't have gotten the interdict in April last year if it wasn't a strong case."

Meanwhile, Duvenage says although the organisation has raised over R10 million for the battle, he says there's still a shortfall of R1.5 million.

The case is expected to cost Outa more than R12.5 million.

"We've had to work hard to get here. But I think society has come to the party, both business and the public at large, to help us to get as far as we have and we're in awe."

Meanwhile, the alliance says it's too early to speculate whether it will need to fight the e-toll battle in the Constitutional Court, saying for now it only wants to focus on winning today's challenge.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get there. There's a Constitutional Court and we can appeal and they can also appeal, but I don't think we should predict anything."