OUTA goes to supreme court of appeal on Bill

OUTA seems to have forgotten Parliament….

The decision by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) to spend many hundreds of thousands of rands of public money to obtain a judgement from the North Gauteng High Court to set aside e-tolling on the basis that legislation making e-tolling possible was not debated in the proper manner seemed at the time a little odd when OUTA did not  itself  make a submission to Parliament on the legislation or accept a  debate with portfolio committee on transport when invited to do so.

The fact that the decision by the Gauteng High Court has been reversed still excludes Parliament which seems to be yet another example of living with the belief that the world ends at the Jukskei River.

OUTA seems to be unaware of the fact the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill is a national Bill which has been tabled; the matter is a national issue and that Parliament is the home of an independent parliamentary debating process surrounding the anchor legislation, whatever inputs may come from SANRAL, OUTA, the minister of transport or threats from COSATU.

According to the records produced at a meeting of the portfolio committee on transport to finally debate and approve the Bill, the committee spent nearly R200,000 on advertising the request to “Have Your Say” on the Bill, the normal insertions for a Bill known to be contentious.  The record also shows that most of this spend was on national dailies and the weekend press, as it so happens mostly printed in Gauteng.

The scurrilous suggestion by COSATU that no such advertising took place was a lie, possibly placed by COSATU to influence OUTA, and reflects the fact that COSATU  knows full well that Parliament was the home for such debate.

That’s why COSATU was there in full strength, one of two parties who bothered to appear in Parliament.   BUSA failed to appear in person, submitting comments in writing, which kind of submission becomes a very watered-down affair.

The fact that the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) did make a full submission (and a very good one) and succeeded with an effective amendment that whenever and wherever a toll is built a full debate must take place with the municipality or local authority, was accepted by Parliament. Which seems to prove a point.

Also the Bill was re-worded to the effect that alternative routes around the affected toll road are to be demarcated. Well done SALGA.

COSATU’s own suggestion to stop e-tolling on the basis of selection against the poor with no constructive suggestions as to how national roads were to be future-funded led to a rejection by members of the transport committee.

SALGA concluded in their submission that a lot more work needs to be done on advising the public how e-tolling  works; advertising on why it is necessary; pricing structures to be seen visually on approach; what any alternative routes are; what the discounts are about and how and when to buy an e-tag and if it is always necessary.

SANRAL, who were present at both the hearings and subsequent debates accepted privately this advice given by SALGA to the satisfaction of the portfolio chairperson and although SANRAL had no speaking role in the subsequent legislative debate, once again their presence was felt.

Even the parliamentary portfolio committee admitted in conclusion when the Bill was approved that nobody really wanted e-tolling but were clearly angered by the OUTA and COSATU suggestion that “nobody was informed on the Bill” and even more curious to know why OUTA itself was nowhere to be seen in Cape Town.

Presumably the Bill will go to the National Assembly now that Parliament is re-assembling and concurrence eventually sought from the National Council of Provinces. Presumably also OUTA is hoping that the Supreme Court of Appeal, where the matter is now headed, will instruct the minister to withdraw the Bill.

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