A judgement by the Supreme Court of Appeal on Monday cleared the way for exposure of controversial details of tolling plans in the Western Cape by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) and ensured public access to documents filed in court.
The City of Cape Town on Monday revealed crucial information on the tolling plans after the judgment set aside an order made by Western Cape High Court Judge Ashley Binns-Ward in August last year that Sanral documents remain sealed until a review was heard in court.
Judge Binns-Ward’s ruling meant important details of the tolls project were kept secret as Sanral had applied for them to be kept confidential in a court case brought by the city to review the decision to toll certain roads. The Democratic Alliance-led City of Cape Town has been fiercely opposed to Sanral’s proposed tolls on the N1 and N2 freeways in the Western Cape‚ and a legal review is set to be heard in August.
On Monday the city revealed the decision to declare the Winelands toll roads was taken by Sanral CEO Nazir Alli‚ and not by the Sanral board as required by the Sanral Act. It also said the Protea Parkway Consortium‚ the preferred bidder for the project‚ expected to make R48bn from toll revenue over the 20-year concession period.
Sanral committed to compensate the consortium for any shortfall in toll fees. The city said that meant Sanral would have to divert public funds meant for the construction and maintenance of national roads to fund the consortium’s profit expectation of R48bn. Commuters would pay toll tariffs nearly three times higher than the e-toll in Gauteng.
Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said it “noted” the judgment. “Sanral respects the judicial process and adheres to the rule of law; the roads agency will discuss the matter with its legal representatives before making any public pronouncements.”
Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said the reimbursement clause contradicted a Sanral presentation to Jeff Radebe‚ who was transport minister between 2004 and 2009‚ that the project would require “no financial contribution from the state”. “Should Sanral undertake a public participation process about the proposed tariffs‚ this would be a sham as they had already contractually committed to the tariffs proposed by Protea Parkway Consortium in its bid.”
Mr Herron said the Gauteng project charged 30c/km including VAT for light vehicles‚ against 84.59c/km proposed by Protea Parkway. Gauteng had a cap of R450 a month for light vehicles but no caps were provided for in the Western Cape.
Mr Herron said the city would file replying papers to Sanral’s answering affidavit next month‚ in which experts would offer calculations on how much of the toll fees collected would likely be spent on infrastructure and operations as opposed to road improvements‚ maintenance and operational work.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s Wayne Duvenage said the group was outraged at the allegations that Mr Alli had transgressed the Sanral Act.
–Bekezela Phakathi and Franny Rabkin