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Cape Town City fighting to avoid Gauteng e-toll R9bn to R59bn cost debacle

There is much at stake in the City of Cape Town’s court battle against the central Government’s attempts to toll 180km of Western Cape province’s roads. For one thing, the City is rightly fretting about the eventual cost – after all, court papers show Gauteng’s e-tolls escalated from an initially proposed R9bn to a staggering R59bn. For another, the City believes there has not been anything like sufficient consultation with its ratepayers, describing the process as a “sham”. It’s a classic showdown between those who love pulling the strings from on high and those who hate having their strings being pulled. – Alec Hogg

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By Dane McDonald

Cape Town – The City of Cape Town has expressed its concern that the SA National Roads Agency’s (Sanral) decision to toll roads in the Cape Winelands may follow the same contentious route as in Gauteng.

The city has brought an application to have Sanral’s decision to toll sections of the N1 and N2 highways into Cape Town reviewed and set aside.

In the city’s reply to Sanral heads of argument, its lawyer, Geoff Budlender, SC, argued that toll fees would have to be determined before construction on the tolls commenced.

Budlender contrasted the city’s proposal with the process of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, “where everything was built and fees were set afterwards”.

According to Budlender, it was possible to know the cost of the project before the declaration that the roads would be tolled.

Budlender criticised an affidavit by the transport minister, in which he said he was satisfied that Sanral had conducted a sufficient public participation process, and that he had applied his mind to the legislation, which had directed his decision.

“He does not say that he considered whether it was socially and financially viable,” Budlender contended.

Budlender told the Western Cape High Court that the minister of transport at the time, Jeff Radebe, was “materially misinformed that the total cost would be R9bn and that the state would not carry any costs”.

According to the City of Cape Town, the total cost of the project should have been estimated at approximately R59bn.

Budlender further argued that the minister’s decision was liable to be set aside “on procedural grounds”, as “he was given incorrect information”.

“The minister misconstrued his powers… he did not make the decision he was supposed to,” said Budlender.

“If the decision maker misconstrues his powers… it is a breach of the principle of legality,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Budlender called Sanral’s public participation process a “sham” because the city and its citizens were not given a reasonable opportunity to provide input to inform the minister’s decision in September 2008.

He argued that the minister had Sanral’s input on which to base his decision, but not the public’s.

About 180km of highway will be tolled, should the Winelands Toll Highway project go ahead. – Fin24

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