JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa wishes to express its sincere regret at the judgement handed down in the North Gauteng High Court today. Notwithstanding that we are disappointed that OUTA lost the challenge, we are infinitely more concerned that Judge Vorster, whilst not being disposed to awarding punitive costs; has according to Eyewitness News, ordered OUTA to pay SANRAL and Treasury’s legal costs and this sends.
Given the fact that government has spent what is estimated to be somewhere in the order of R30 million of taxpayers’ money on defending this matter, should OUTA have to pay government’s legal expenses, there is no doubt that OUTA will not be able to do so and this will expose the directors of OUTA to be held responsible in their personal capacities. This will send a very clear message to Non-Governmental Organisations not to take government on in court, regardless of how good their case may be, just in case they lose.
Whilst awarding costs to the winning party in a court challenge is standard practice, each case has its own merits and we are concerned about the ominous message this judgment sends. Since no-one can accurately predict the outcome of any court challenge, the message that is being sent is “don’t screw with government in court or you will be bankrupted”. Another succinct message that is being sent is that you would be better advised to resort to mass action, which may or may not result in public violence, given that protests which have turned violent have not resulted in anyone being held financially liable for the resultant damages incurred.
We note that the Democratic Alliance is calling for a referendum and that COSATU is speaking of further protests on this hugely unpopular eTolling matter. Since we doubt that a “democratic process” like a referendum will take place on this matter, it’s fairly obvious that further protest action will be forthcoming.
Whilst we sincerely hope that the nature of these protests will be peaceful, we have for a very long time warned that the eTolling matter may end up being South Africa’s very own Arab, or more precisely “South African Spring” and we hope that this does not ring true.
Although we refrain from urging people to break the law, we also strongly support the calls made by many not to register for eTolling or buy eTags in order to cripple this extremely unjust system of eTolling.
National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)
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