From the outset, it is important to note the matter which SANRAL is crowing about is simply a default judgment obtained against an individual who ignored a summons issued for the non-payment of e-tolls. In other words, there was no legal hearing on the merits or legality of the e-toll scheme and thus, no ruling or formal judgment was provided by a judge.
A default judgment is only possible if and when a person who has received a summons fails to elect to defend. By obtaining a default judgement and then claiming this to be a precedent-setting outcome of e-tolls, SANRAL is playing with the technicalities of legal procedures.
This tactic is disingenuous, extremely dangerous and suggests SANRAL is attempting to slip through the back door in search of default judgments in order to prevent the merits of the case and the lawfulness arguments being heard in front of a judge. The current test case under development between OUTA and SANRAL’s lawyers is where the merits of e-tolling will be challenged, with the necessary facts and issues presented.
In addition to the lack of merits being presented, SANRAL’s default judgment has been obtained on a “simple summons” which contains numerous errors, making the technicalities of allowing the default judgment by the registrar of the court, extremely concerning.
The conduct by SANRAL to seek default judgments whilst at the same time developing a formal test case is extremely dangerous, in that a default judgment has the potential to push a business into liquidation. This could very well give rise to detrimental ramifications in which people lose their businesses and employees are retrenched, which in itself gives rise to the possibility of triggering depression and even suicide.
“We have to ask SANRAL’s leadership and their lawyers if they have given serious thought to the consequences of their actions, ” says Ben Theron, OUTA’s Portfolio Director for Transport. “What will happen when SANRAL loses a properly defended case on the merits and unlawfulness of the scheme. How will SANRAL try to unscramble the egg of businesses forced into liquidation and of people losing their jobs?”
In effect, SANRAL is playing with people’s lives and livelihood. They should cease to play these dangerous games with society, more so with a scheme that has clearly failed and one that has mounting evidence of its illegality on the back of so many factors which have come to light on the e-toll decision, evident in the Western Cape case, which SANRAL lost in all three courts.
OUTA is now evaluating the need and possibility to have this default rescinded and will inform the public of developments in this regard in due course. Whatever the future, OUTA’s defensive challenge will be heard in court and SANRAL will not be able to circumvent this reality.
Until then, OUTA urges the public to not ignore summonses served on them and asks the public to follow the steps provided on their website at www.outa.co.za
All OUTA members reminded to simply send any summons they receive on the non-payment of e-tolls to OUTA and we will take care of the rest. OUTA also urges all legal firms who’s clients receive a summons for e-toll, to please contact their office, as we can assist them and provide input as to the arguments and merits of their case.