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In this issue
Note from the Chair
OUTA serves notice to defend members
Sanral kicks the can on road construction collusion
OUTA honoured in “top 10 organisations making a difference
OUTA’s collaborative approach expands membership base
Dear OUTA Members and followers
Sanral’s recent marketing efforts have revved into overdrive, as they go all out in this last ditched ‘do-or-die’ attempt to coerce compliance to the e-toll scheme.
Combined with the millions of rands spent on marketing the 60% discount which has now come to an end, Sanral have decided to proceed with issuing of summonses against e-toll defaulters. Having threatened to do so for a long time, they had no option but carry this out, or pack it in. Calling the defunct scheme off would have been the sensible route to go, but then again, that would have broken the long trend of nonsensical behaviour from this state owned entity.
Sanral’s summonses means that OUTA’s claim of Sanral’s unlawful behaviour, plus a number of other factors which expose the irrationality of the scheme, will now be heard in court. Contrary to Sanral’s claims and belief, the courts have not ruled in their favour on the e-toll matter (read this article we recently released)
While it has always been our desire to have the authorities come to their senses and halt this ill-conceived scheme, the time has now arrived to have our case heard through a defensive challenge in court.
OUTA will shortly reveal results and update its position paper which contains additional extensive research, aimed at exposing the extent of societies overpayment (through Sanral) on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. In our updated version, we will provide additional clarity and input on why Sanral’s attempt to fob-off our international comparison to road construction costs has failed, but more importantly, we will now provide input and comparisons to local road pricing benchmarks. Hopefully, this report will provide the Minister of Transport with sufficient reason to open the independent inquiry into the matter.
More about that next month. Until then, if you do receive a summons for your unpaid e-toll bills, please don’t do nothing. The OUTA web site provides a step-by-step guide of the actions and steps to be taken.
Strength to you.
OUTA serves notice to defend its members against e-Toll Summons
Fraught with inefficiencies and cumbersome processes, the public backlash and defiance against the irrational system grew and compliance subsided from around 40% in mid-2014 to around well below 20% by the end of 2015.
Two years ago, in early 2014, Sanral threatened the public with court action for non-payment of e-tolls. For political and practical reasons, they decided not to proceed with this threat, but unwisely they chose to press on with their rapidly failing e-Toll scheme. Fraught with inefficiencies and cumbersome processes, the public backlash and defiance against the irrational system grew and compliance subsided from around 40% in mid-2014 to around well below 20% by the end of 2015.
Despite the fact that over two million motorists refuse to pay for the e-toll scheme, Sanral has decided to commence with the issuing of Magistrate and High Court summonses against less than 0.3% of e-Toll defaulters. This is nothing short of state coercion and victimisation of its citizens. The extent of this unjust and gross action by the state is unheard of since the dawn of our new democracy, and compares to the enforcement of the pass laws under the apartheid Group Areas Act.
“We regard this as an onslaught against the people’s freedom of movement and participative action in decisions that impact them,” says Wayne Duvenage, the Chairman of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA). “The Minister would be wise to instruct Sanral to desist from this crass behaviour.”
To date, several OUTA members have received High Court summonses for amounts ranging between R400 000 and R8 million. OUTA’s lawyers have filed notices of intention to defend these matters, on behalf of our members, with the North Gauteng High Court and a trial of this nature could possibly take years to finalise.
This action by SANRAL will further anger the Gauteng motorists, and just as we have seen over the past three years, the public will continue to remain resilient in the defence of their rights on this issue.
OUTA maintains Sanral’s claim that the courts having ruled in their favour on this matter, is pure fallacy. The fact is that the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside the e-Toll review judgment in 2013, and stated very clearly that the public have every right to raise a collateral (defensive) challenge against the scheme, if and when the state intends to coerce the public to comply, such as that which Sanral is currently undertaking.
OUTA is well prepared for this legal challenge, with past court papers and new strong evidence which has come to the fore since then. We will prove why and how Sanral have run roughshod over the public’s constitutional rights and other legal requirements when declaring Gauteng’s freeways as tolled roads.
To assist the public, we have also placed guidelines on our web site, as to how to launch a defensive challenge, should the public be summonsed and wish to defend themselves, or alternatively, to have OUTA assist them in defence of Sanral’s summonses.
Sanral kicks the can on road construction collusion
OUTA has slammed SANRAL for dragging its feet in claiming back the overcharges incurred from collusion of construction firms.
OUTA has slammed SANRAL for dragging its feet in claiming back the overcharges incurred from collusion of construction firms. This is despite the Competition Commission Tribunal judgement in 2013 that found the collusive construction companies guilty for fraudulently pushing up the road construction costs of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
Over the past two and a half years, there has been a lot of talk but seemingly very little action from SANRAL, which has gone silent on this important issue but highly vocal and active on threats to send summonses to non-paying motorists in a desperate bid of recouping the historical debt that has shot upwards to unprecedented levels.
A series of articles from the media going back to 2013 outline an array of comments from Sanral postulating how it will recover the money, but two years down the line nothing solid has been recorded.
In December 2013 Sanral through its spokesperson Vusi Mona announced it was filing for a civil action to claim the monies it was owed by construction companies. In next successive years, the road agency continued on the same path of empty threats with Sanral CEO Nazir Alli coming out in 2015 saying they were taking action.
After two years of procrastination Sanral told the media recently that its investigators are calculating how much the organisation overpaid the construction firms. Their response came after OUTA’s detailed research on how the road agency had overpriced the GFIP construction costs by over 300 percent, verified claims which the entity has been in pain trying to dismiss as untrue.
OUTA says the purpose of this legally required action by SANRAL would not only be fitting punishment for the unacceptable behaviour of the collusive companies, but it would also alleviate the cash-flow pressures currently being experienced by the state owned entity, and ultimately society – whose taxes and toll fees are used to keep them afloat.
“If we take a look at the timeline of events (below), a picture unfolds which depicts SANRAL as kicking the can down the road on this serious issue for the past two and a half years,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s Chairman.
“This is a clear case of procrastination and our concern is that in seven months from now, the ability for SANRAL to claim this money on behalf of the people of South Africa will prescribe. SANRAL’s comments made this week, shows us that two and a half years after the clock started, they have still not calculated the extent of the over-payment, having said they were doing this a long time ago,” says Duvenage.
He implored Sanral to collect the overcharges from the collusive companies, failing which their leadership could be held accountable for their lack of meaningful action, saying the road agency is obliged to be transparent and meaningfully informative of their actions on such matters, so as to keep the public and the media abreast with detail thereof.
“What could be taking them so long to determine the extent of the overcharges and to process these claims?” asks Duvenage.
OUTA honoured in “top 10 organisations making a difference in South Africa”
In an article published on Sunday Times, the newspaper listed OUTA among top 10 organisations making a difference in South Africa’s history.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has been honoured to be counted among organisations setting the tone for active citizenry and public opinion that could bring much-needed change in South Africa.
In an article published on Sunday Times, the newspaper listed OUTA among top 10 organisations making a difference in South Africa’s history. The list grouped OUTA with influential organisations – Treatment Action Campaign,SA Council of Churches and Social Justice Coalition among others – being civil society groups that have been agents of change in the socio-economic and political landscape of the South Africa.
When congratulatory messages were still pouring in on this well deserved feat, another article that has recorded over 3 million views singled the organisation as a vehicle for public opinion that could cause necessary change in South Africa.
“Public opinion consists of a collection of information processes like the media (official and social) and non-governmental interest groups, like labour unions, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), Afriforum and cultural and other civil organisations like churches,” read the opinion piece.
OUTA’s chairperson Wayne Duvenage said the organisation was humbled to be included among notable organisations in the country.
“We would like to thank all our members and supporters for playing their part as Active Citizens, in supporting us to challenge issues that run roughshod over people’s rights in our country. We have a long journey ahead of us as a nation, as we claim back the respect and rights of transparency and meaningful engagement that our political leaders and their state owned entities need to display to their citizens,” said Duvenage.
He said the ever-growing support base has been made possible by its members and donors who have believed in the organisation’s cause since 2012, when it decided to challenge the government and Sanral on e-tolls.
“Our rapidly growing support base is extremely encouraging and we thank all our members and donors for enabling OUTA to grow into a highly effective civil intervention organisation. The road of civil courage is long. It is also rough, but ultimately, it is rewarding,” he said.
Following the development of our engagement with other civil action activity and petitions, OUTA has been privileged to work with Brent Lindeque, the organiser of South Africa Must Rise petition, and will manage the communication and energy drive with this petition’s members.
Lindeque said that collaboration with OUTA was driven by a positive energy that came from the organisation’s ability to foster positive and effective civil intervention.
“I have therefore decided to engage with a growing and impactful organisation that has made inroads to challenging the abusive conduct of the state, and through whom I believe your active citizenry and participation can yield a positive energy for change in South Africa,” said Lindeque.
“We’ve found a new home for the momentum this petition started… in OUTA, an apolitical organisation which has recently broadened its mandate beyond the Gauteng e-Toll matter, to one which is aimed at tackling larger tax issues and corrupt conduct by our Governing Authorities in South Africa.”
The Cliff Central presenter said the spreading of wings by OUTA into new spheres that concerns citizens will drive the petition into a different space where more energy that can be realised.
“But we all have to be stakeholders in it to succeed. All I now ask is your permission to continue communicating with you in the same spirit but through the OUTA banner going forward,” he said.
The Zuma Must Fall petition was launched in December 2015 , following President Zuma’s axing of Finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene. It grew quickly in the first few weeks and is now approaching the 200,000 signature mark. It is a petition which signifies the expression of frustration by a large cross section of society, a frustration that has been compounded by the shocking leadership decisions undertaken by the State President.