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Sat Oct 25 14:43:26 SAST 2014

Citizens must do more and ask less of the courts

Editorial | 14 December, 2012 00:02

THE battle to stop e-tolling on Gauteng freeways failed yesterday when the courts gave the government the green light to race on.

Though the decision is a blow to motorists and the organisations that had hoped that the courts would declare the project illegal, the question that should be asked now is whether we have outsourced our role as citizens to the courts.

Constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos raises valid questions about South Africans (see his thoughts on Page 19). He says the middle class and the media have failed democracy.

De Vos says the e-tolls decision should serve as a warning to all of us that we should not turn to the courts in the hope that judges will solve our political problems.

He maintains that South Africans should be involved, and take action, on policy proposals that would have a direct bearing on them if implemented.

His argument is a bitter pill to swallow but should be a lesson to us all.

The tolling of Gauteng freeways was approved by the cabinet back in 2007. For five years, De Vos points out, we have enjoyed the smooth roads, seen the gantries being erected - and kept quiet.

But as soon as the media reported on the tariffs that would be imposed to pay for the improved roads we suddenly woke up and challenged the government.

We agree with De Vos that, as citizens, we should be vigilant and not use our courts to fight our battles for us.

If our fight against the tolls had started back in 2007, chances are that the government would have sought other means to fund the road improvements.

We should avoid making the same mistake again.

We must be vigilant and engage the government at all levels - and not outsource our rights and responsibilities to others.

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