THE BIG READ: Respect e-toll verdict
Democracy bequeathed us South Africans a sacred right to forge our country into one which future generations can be proud of.
This is possible only if we observe the principle of the separation of powers, abide by the rule of law and adhere to the constitution, and not resort to civil disobedience .
We correctly ditched the practice of parliamentary sovereignty and, in its stead, introduced the doctrine of constitutional supremacy.
We are enjoined by our constitution and the Constitutional Court - indeed all the courts - are tasked with protecting the fundamental rights of ordinary citizens.
Courts have to adjudicate the case s brought before them objectively, impartially and without fear or favour for our democracy to remain strong. Where appropriate, the courts have the right to review the conduct of the executive to ensure compliance with our constitution.
Over the past few years, the courts have been warned not to delve into " political" disputes.
In my view, for our democracy to function optimally, the courts - especially the Constitutional Court - should enter the political arena when needed.
Court decisions are questioned the world over. However, to threaten the courts is undemocratic .
Once we place the integrity of the courts in doubt, we open the doors to anarchy. Court decisions can go against popular public opinion.
I remember how hurt I felt by the Constitutional Court's verdict in 1997 in the case of Soobramoney v Minister of Health, KwaZulu-Natal.
The court dismissed the terminally ill Thiagraj Soobramoney's application that the state provide him with renal dialysis to keep him alive. It ruled that were he granted dialysis at the state's expense, the state would be obligated to do the same for every person in his position - an expense that would deplete its limited resources.
There was a huge outcry from many members of the public who felt Soobramoney had been denied his right to life - but there was no call for civil disobedience.
Were the National Planning Commission in place at the time of the Soobramoney decision, I am positive it would have given our country an A-plus for our ethical behaviour.
Sadly, its 2010 diagnostic report found we are part of a "society in decline" .
The protracted legal battle between the South African National Roads Agency and Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance shows how contemptuous we are today of court decisions that go against public opinion .
Judge Louis Vorster in the North Gauteng High Court in December ruled that Outa 's case was without merit and ordered it to pay the state' s legal costs.
The impression the court gave by ordering Outa to pay the state' s legal costs is that it litigated vexatiously.
It will be difficult for Outa to raise sufficient funds to settle the legal costs order against it and appeal the judgment .
I am a resident of Gauteng. This form of taxation will hit me where it hurts most - my empty pocket. Hard as it is to reconcile this fact with the court's decision; I respect it.
I was surprised when several prominent citizens called on Gauteng motorists not to purchase e-t ags. The call by these leaders is tantamount to urging citizens to make our democracy ungovernable. A call by anyone to disregard a valid legal court order should be a cause for concern for all of us.
Lest I be misunderstood: I am not endorsing the e-tolling system.
I believe, like many motorists, that the state could have explored less expensive options.
However, I am worried that the most important pillar of our democracy - the judiciary - is being disrespected by the public.
After the verdict, Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage was quoted as saying: "We urge motorists to use their legal right to make the system unworkable and display the will of the people."
This position is shared by Cosatu.
Statements like these whip up the emotions of motorists and galvanise them to revolt against the court's judgment. I doubt if any legal right can flow from disobeying a court order.
Still fresh in my mind is the unfortunate loss of many lives during the unprotected illegal strike at Marikana.
Handled properly within the confines of the law by all the roleplayers, the Marikana tragedy could have been averted.
Civilians should find protection in law - and uphold their rights through legal means. T he right to go on strike and protest against a burning issue is constitutional and protected by the legal system.
I concede that in the present climate of economic uncertainty it is easy for us to be despondent about the judgment because many citizens can barely afford basic necessities of life.
This, however, cannot be seen as a licence to disregard court orders and sound calls for civil disobedience.
We have witnessed court abuses during the apartheid regime and it will be sad if we subject the court today to behaviours that are not too dissimilar to that era.
Our values as a country are completely different from those of yesteryear, when the apartheid government called the shots.
Civil disobedience as a tool to dismantle that system then was appropriate because the courts were subject to parliamentary sovereignty. We are a constitutional democracy now; the type of civil disobedience called for by Duvenage and Cosatu is inconsistent with our constitution.
It is high time we respected the courts, and their wisdom.