The City of Cape Town begins its court battle against the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) in earnest on Tuesday‚ with an application to have the tolling of the N1 and N2 set aside.
The objection to tolling by the Democratic Alliance-led administration follows the public rebellion over electronic tolling in Gauteng‚ which still threatens to collapse the project and has cost the African National Congress in the province votes.
While the N1 and the N2 are national roads and are therefore the responsibility of the national government‚ the City of Cape Town has had concerns about their tolling since it was first mooted in 2008. In its application‚ it outlines several grounds — mostly of incorrect procedure — for why the proposed tolling should be set aside.
Among these are that the national environmental affairs minister at the time signed off on the project without considering its socioeconomic effect; that the transport minister failed to consider the merits and effects of tolling; and the Sanral board was unable to produce a record of its decision to toll the roads‚ implying that it was the CEO Nazir Alli alone who decided.
On Monday Vusi Mona‚ Sanral general manager for communications‚ said it believed the correct process was followed “procedurally and substantively … Sanral reserves its rights and will consider its options whichever way the court rules.”
All spheres of government were consulted‚ but national roads and their tolling were a national competence‚ he added. In the course of litigation against Sanral‚ which prior to Tuesday’s application involved a successful bid last year to force Sanral to provide the city with bidding information showing the proposed tolling fees‚ the city uncovered astonishing information contained in the proposed deal with the preferred bidder‚ Protea Parkways Consortium (PPC).
The tendered rate per km was set at a guaranteed 84c‚ with Sanral undertaking to make up the shortfall should toll fees be set any lower. DA mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said on Monday that should toll fees be capped at the same level as those in Gauteng at 30c/km‚ “then Sanral would have to pay PPC a conservatively estimated R29bn‚ in addition to the tolls which motorists would have to pay to PPC”. However‚ the proposed contract was never signed as Sanral was interdicted from doing so.
The liability to Sanral had it been signed “would be more than what it would cost Sanral to construct the upgrades and to continue maintaining the N1 and N2”‚ said Mr Herron. Both Sanral and the Treasury had been unaware of this risk‚ before it was pointed out by the city. While projects of this nature would ordinarily be under the close scrutiny of the Treasury‚ Mr Herron said that Sanral was given “an exemption” by the Treasury on the projects.