The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) has collected less than half of the money it requires to cover the legal costs of challenging the government over the implementation of the controversial e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. Outa has estimated it will need R10,8m to cover the costs of the two legal cases that it will take on in the coming months and it has raised about R4,8m, according to chairman Wayne Duvenage. "The funding is coming, we are halfway there. We are confident we will get there in time, it is slower than one would have hoped ... it would have been nice to have the funding monkey off our back so that we can focus on the case," Mr Duvenage said. Outa is fighting two cases. The first is in the North Gauteng High Court which, according to Marc Corcoran, a representative of the Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, which is an Outa member, is likely to be scheduled for September.
The second case will take place next month, Mr Corcoran said. This is in defence of the interdict awarded to Outa by the court that is being challenged by the government in the Constitutional Court. The threat that tolling could still be introduced on portions of freeways in Gauteng had not passed. Outa is working to raise the money it needs to challenge the tolling policy. "We are going around to businesses to ask them to participate ... we tell them why it's important to fight this and everyone we talk to agrees with us ... the only thing is do they have the appetite and do they have funding available to support us?" Mr Duvenage said. E-tolling was meant to start at midnight on April 30, the fourth starting date for the unpopular toll project after as many delays, when Outa won a last-minute reprieve from the North Gauteng High Court. Outa was granted an interim interdict, which stopped the commencement of tolling and also gave Outa the opportunity to challenge the government's procedure in pursuing the project.
The Treasury will challenge the ruling in the Constitutional Court as it believes the decision by Judge Bill Prinsloo amounts to unlawful interference by the judiciary in government policy. The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) borrowed R20bn to fund the road project, and its creditors have expressed concern about the ability of the agency to pay bondholders should there be further delays to the agency's plans to start operating the tolls. In February the Treasury made a R5,8bn allocation to ease the pressure on Sanral's balance sheet and cash flow. Sanral has said it has enough money to make the necessary payments until March next year. At a briefing on the project last month, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would not say how much cash Sanral was losing due to the interdict. Instead, he quoted Moody's estimate of R270m a month, and said "other estimates" put Sanral's losses at R500m - Business Day