Telkom gets lashing from judge over eNatis ‘held to ransom’
Telkom disconnected services due to historical debt of about R16 million, which the Road Traffic Management Corporation inherited.
A high court judge has lashed Telkom for jeopardising the eNatis system and holding the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) to ransom for the payment of historical debt due to it by the transport department.
Acting Judge Liezl Haupt granted a final interdict in the High Court in Pretoria, directing Telkom to restore all of RTMC’s suspended telecommunication services.
She said eNatis was a national key point due to its significance to the economy and could not function without the services of Telkom, but was caught in the cross-fire of a battle between the department and Telkom.
RTMC took over running the eNatis system in April last year, after a Constitutional Court ruling that the extension of a contract between the transport department and Tasima had been unlawful.
The corporation had to go to court twice in the past after Telkom suspended their services due to the department’s outstanding debt of almost R16 million, which predated RTMC taking over the system.
Telkom insisted there was no agreement between them and RTMC and that the corporation had simply stepped into the shoes of Tasima, which acted as an agent on behalf of the department.
Judge Haupt said RTMC was a separate creature of statute whose objective was to act in the public interest rather than for its own financial gain like Tasima, and it would not be lawful for RTMC, a public entity, to pay a debt owed by the department.
She said it was clear that RTMC had been negotiating with Telkom since April last year for a new agreement.
The only probable inference was that the parties had reached a binding and enforceable agreement for uninterrupted services by Telkom for which RTMC would be billed directly. It was not in dispute that RTMC was up to date with all invoices.
“The services in dispute affect the public and impact on the economy … By holding the applicant ransom to enforce payment under a different contract falls short of the requirement of good faith when contracts are negotiated,” she said.