The judgement handed down yesterday by the Western Cape High Court does not signal the death of tolling. To state this would be outright misleading to the public.
In its ruling on the review application brought by the City of Cape Town to challenge SANRAL’s decision to toll the N1/N2 Winelands Project, Judges Binns-Ward and Boqwana said:
“It is thus important at the outset of this judgment to emphasise that it is not the function of the courts to determine one way or the other whether the roads should be tolled.”
“Whether the roads should be tolled or not is a matter to be decided within the relevant statutory framework by SANRAL and the Minister of Transport, not by the courts.”
In fact, the court found against SANRAL only on a narrow, procedural point, i.e. that the intent to toll process was flawed. This means that the courts believed that the administrative requirements laid out in Section 27(4) of the SANRAL Act had not been correctly followed
The court remitted the decision to declare the N1/N2 Winelands roads as toll roads back to SANRAL for further consideration. Consequently, should SANRAL still intend to toll the N1/N2 Winelands route, it may do so as long as it is done within the framework of the SANRAL Act.
Clearly, the court’s finding is that tolling remains an option for the funding of the Winelands Project and its long overdue and much-needed upgrades.
The City of Cape Town chose to take an adversarial position which, unfortunately, has been unhelpful in solving the issue. SANRAL had approached the City of Cape Town in July and does so now again.
The real issue is not only about to question whether to toll or not to toll – it is about finding solutions that will be in the interest of road users. It is a fact that the fuel levy is just not the answer – it is a regressive tax that hits the poor hardest.
Ultimately, it would be in the best interest of the road users, the economy and the poor for the City of Cape Town to take the olive branch that was extended to it by SANRAL before the Court process started.
SANRAL’s legal advisors will consider the judgement and assess the legal options available to SANRAL.