Opposition parties have objected to Parliament acceding to a request by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to prioritise the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, which would pave the way for the implementation of e-tolling.
Mr Motlanthe is the chairman of the interministerial committee on the contentious e-tolling.
The draft law is necessary to allow for electronic toll collection and for a differentiated tariff regime that would give discounts to e-tag holders. When passed, it would empower the government to collect tolls on Gauteng freeways to pay the R20-bn it still owes for their development.
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Earlier this week, the Congress of South African Trade Unions warned the legislature that if the bill was not withdrawn and e-tolling scrapped, there would be protest action on November 30.
On Wednesday, house chairman Cedric Frolick announced in the National Assembly that Mr Motlanthe had written to Parliament on November 13 asking for the bill to be fast-tracked, meaning that it would skip normal procedures for the consideration of a new law.
Mr Frolick said he would make a final decision later.
Should debate proceed during today’s sitting, which is the last of the current session of the National Assembly, this would allow the National Council of Provinces to consider the bill next week. If the council ratified the bill, it would then be passed on to President Jacob Zuma to sign into effect.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), Inkatha Freedom Party, Freedom Front Plus and the Congress of the People objected to it being included on the agenda of the National Assembly’s last sitting of the year.
The parties argued National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu had recently ruled that the programme had to be approved by consensus and yet there was no agreement on this draft law being debated so soon. They were referring to Mr Sisulu’s justification for not allowing the DA’s motion of no confidence in Mr Zuma to proceed, as the basis for their argument.
Mr Sisulu’s decision was at the centre of the DA’s high court action this week in applying for a ruling that the motion be debated.
The opposition parties insisted that Parliament’s "three-day rule" applied. This rule stipulates that no matter a portfolio committee dealt with could be debated in the National Assembly sooner than three days. The last sitting of the transport committee was on Tuesday.
African National Congress (ANC) MP John Jeffery said the rule could be suspended and then the draft law could be debated on the same day.
Another ANC MP, Tryphosa Kubayi, said opposition parties were alerted that the draft law would be tabled during the final week of the National Assembly session. Therefore, it should not be a surprise as Mr Jeffery had "highlighted" it in previous meetings of the programming committee.
DA chief whip Watty Watson was having none of that. "Highlighting is not consensus," he said.