Sparks fly over N2 toll road project
March 19 2015 at 09:42am
By Tony Carnie and Anél Lewis
Pretoria - The South African National Roads Agency has been accused of forging documents to mislead the Pretoria High Court and bolster support for the controversial N2 Wild Coast Toll Road.
This emerged late on Wednesday when Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona admitted the agency was “investigating the circumstances around fraud allegations relating to statements that Sanral submitted in court”.
To complicate matters, attorneys said the original of an allegedly forged signature appeared to have been “uplifted from the court file by unknown persons” and could not be examined by handwriting experts.
Several community groups from the Pondoland Wild Coast are seeking to set aside the government's 2010 decision to authorise construction of a toll road between Durban and East London.
Sanral had filed a number of affidavits from Wild Coast residents expressing support for the toll road - even though at least one of them, Nomvelwana Mhlengana, a council member of the Amadiba Traditional Authority and assistant to headwoman Cynthia Baleni, had been a vocal opponent of the toll plan.
In this affidavit - apparently signed on 11 November 2014 and stamped the following day at the Mzamba police station - Mhlengana purportedly gives her signed support for the proposed toll road and states that she did not authorise Cape Town environmental law firm Cullinan and Associates to bring a court application to overturn the toll road authorisation.
Three more affidavits, each with the same format and bearing the letterhead of the Mbizana Local Municipality, were purportedly signed by three other residents - but now Mhlengana says she never signed the affidavit of support and only became aware of its existence after Sanral presented it to the court.
“I deny all the allegations made in the affidavit and do not support the N2 Wild Coast project,” she said. “I am known as an outspoken opponent of the proposed toll road, and I am very angry that Sanral has filed a forged affidavit in my name that directly contradicts my previous affidavit.”
She also believes the other three affidavits of support, purportedly signed by Msulwa Ndovela, Mfihlewa Mdatya and Gotyelwa Mathumbu, were also forgeries. She said had never heard of these three people, who were said to be members of her community.
“Sanral representatives knew that members of the Sigidi community would not sign their affidavits,” she said, “so they prepared forged affidavits with the assistance of members of the SA Police Services.”
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance spokesman Wayne Duvenage said: “Having studied copies of the various affidavits in the court record, it would appear that Sanral has fabricated evidence to back up its assertion that the Amadiba coastal community were supportive of the N2 Wild Coast toll road scheme.”
In an earlier affidavit from Alli, Sanral claimed that Cullinan and Associates director Cormac Cullinan did not have authority to act for those opposed to the toll road.
Cullinan said in a responding affidavit he had provided overwhelming evidence that communities supported the court challenge on the toll road and noted that Sanral had “virtually unlimited access to funds (from the public purse) whereas) the clients we represent have very limited financial resources”.
“This application by Sanral, supported as it is with forged affidavits, is a cynical attempt to deny these communities their constitutional rights.”
Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town is cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court of Appeal will uphold its appeal to make crucial information about the controversial Winelands toll project public.
Brett Herron, Cape Town mayoral committee member for transport, said in Bloemfontein on Wednesday legal counsel for the city and the 11 organisations standing as friends of the court, had made “compelling arguments” in favour of lifting the veil of secrecy that Sanral has imposed on its toll project for the N1 and the N2.
“Sanral wants to keep taxpayers in the dark about the cost of the tolling project,” he said, “by preventing the city from disclosing the information that is contained in its bid record.”
Herron said the information was of “great public importance” as it referred to toll fees and compared these with what Gauteng motorists were paying for their toll scheme.
The city's review application for Sanral's decision to declare the N1 and N2 as toll roads, and for the project to be scrapped, has been set down for 11 August in the Western Cape High Court.
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