Sanral Chief Executive Officer Nazir Alli wrote to the city to seek a “win-win solution” and avoid legal action over tolling, but at the same time he said tolls were the only way to fund a project to upgrade roads.
This emerged from correspondence between mayor Patricia de Lille and Sanral after the parastatal claimed on Sunday “her reply to their initial offer showed she had no interest in the project” and was bent on dragging them to court.
Alli also maintained in the letter to De Lille that the only option available to Sanral is for a concessionaire to operate the project. The letter, seen by News24, was dated July 17 this year and copied to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters. It argued why the roads needed to be upgraded.
Alli said he was worried about the potential impact of time delays and where that left the future development of the city’s national roads.
“A five-year time horizon in getting to a final decision is significant. Five years is a long time in politics and economics,” he said.
“The city may gain a short-term political victory if it wins the court application but in the long term the users of the road… will be prejudiced and will become increasingly frustrated.”
He said Sanral’s work, planning and money would be “thwarted and wasted” if the project did not go ahead.
De Lille told News24 the Western Cape High Court action to set aside Sanral’s decision to toll had nothing to do with politics. She received the letter a week before the court case and discussed it at length with her lawyers. In her responding letter without prejudice [to the court case] on July 29, she said any collaborative solution would have to accommodate the city’s firm position that it was opposed to tolling.
The city said it would agree to settle the court case if:
- Sanral agreed to an order of court setting aside the declaration of the N1 and N2 as toll roads;
- Sanral agreed to withdraw and abandon the project;
- A joint technical team was established to include members nominated by the provincial transport MEC to decide what infrastructural upgrades were required for the N1 and N2 and a timeline for their necessary implementation;
- The parties agreed upon acceptable funding and/or financing mechanisms; and
- Sanral paid the city’s legal costs to date.
In a responding letter on August 11, Alli said he was “somewhat surprised” she had attached these preconditions. He asked what infrastructural upgrades and acceptable funding/financing mechanisms she had in mind. De Lille said on Wednesday she received quite a “snipey few paragraphs” in response, asking for clarity, and she left it at that.
Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona claimed at the weekend that her reply to their initial offer showed she had no interest in the project and was intent on dragging the parastatal to court.
“We explained that Sanral would not be held to ransom by unreasonable and unethical demands. There has been no further response from her to date,” the statement read.
He also claimed the city was making Sanral out as a “monster” that wanted to rip off residents. De Lille told News24, “We don’t need to do that because they are doing quite well in painting and projecting themselves as monsters.”
The Western Cape High Court has yet to deliver its judgment.