“We are tired of the delays which appear to have arisen through the hurdles and time taken between responses in our engagements with SANRAL. We are anxious to get on with the job of demonstrating to the courts and the public that e-tolling is unlawful in the cases for which notice of intention to defend was already given last year,” says Ben Theron, OUTA’s Portfolio Director for Transport. “It also irks us that whilst we are trying to have this serious matter dealt with, SANRAL is sneaking through the back door to file default judgments against the public, with the knowledge that OUTA has serious issues with this, and hard facts pertaining to their flawed e-toll processes as well as the legality of the entire scheme.”
Whilst we deal with the need to get to court as quickly as possible, OUTA would like to point out to the public that if served with a summons for non-payment of e-tolls, they must not ignore these and should file a notice of intent to defend the matter within a few days of receipt of the summons. This is best done by following the right legal processes and if one is unsure thereof, they are advised to contact a lawyer to do so on their behalf. Guidelines of what steps to take when served with a summons can be found on OUTA’s website (www.outa.co.za).
“We are aware SANRAL has issued several thousand e-toll non-payment summonses to the general motoring public and not all of these people are part of OUTA’s e-toll defence umbrella,” says Theron. “This means the first case which SANRAL may bring to court, could very well be one that falls outside of OUTA’s knowledge. We believe SANRAL is aiming for such a case, so as to try to obtain a win in court on a poorly defended case against an unsuspecting individual or business, to give the impression of another precedent-setting win.”
OUTA points out that even if SANRAL wins a case that is not defended by OUTA, it will not necessarily be precedent setting. The reason is the facts and arguments put up by an OUTA-assisted member of the public are likely to be different and more comprehensive on account of OUTA and its legal team’s knowledge and experience with e-toll litigation. It would be a case of “win small now and lose big later” for SANRAL, until they call off the debacle.
SANRAL’s current efforts to force a solution for their financial woes through a swamp of litigation are extremely short sighted. It is clear to OUTA that SANRAL fails to realise that winning a peripheral legal skirmish, in the hope that society falls for this as the main battleground of the e-toll war, will not happen. This is what happened when SANRAL claimed precedent-setting victories in the Dr Stoychev case in 2015 and again in the default judgement matter in March this year, which showed them up as being blind to the real issues on this matter and how poorly advised they appear to be.
Peripheral e-toll skirmishes against unsuspecting citizens will quickly be exposed for the hollow victories they really are. The people will know when the meaningful court battle has been fought. The quicker we get there, the quicker the e-toll debacle that began unlawfully as far back as 2007 will finally come to an end.
Accordingly, SANRAL would be well advised to get into the defensive challenge with OUTA as soon as possible and halt all other cases they may have with the public until then. If they don’t, it will become a messy affair and courts could be potentially clogged up with many unnecessary and damaging cases that could affect people’s lives and livelihood.
Going down their current route will only earn SANRAL the reputation of behaving like an intimidating schoolyard bully that prefers to pick on the kids at the edge of the playground. A bully fearful of challenging the might of a public-funded legal team on centre-stage who will take them on with the right arguments and presentation of some pretty scary facts and questions they need to answer.
“We trust that SANRAL will come to their senses before too many people get hurt and the lives of many unsuspecting individuals are impacted negatively by SANRAL’s questionable conduct,” says Duvenage.