Johannesburg - The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) wanted to give Gauteng motorists a timely warning that e-tolls would kick in soon when it made the widely criticised announcement, a spokesperson said on Friday.
"We looked at our timelines. We thought it's appropriate now just to remind Gauteng motorists that we will be switching on the system in two months' time, all things being equal," Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona told SAfm.
"If the deal goes through Parliament and it gets adopted, then we go to toll."
Sanral announced on Thursday that e-tolling in Gauteng would begin in two months, sparking criticism from the Congress of SA Trade Unions and the Democratic Alliance.
"We condemn the announcement by Sanral, which is arrogantly made even before both houses of Parliament have passed the legislation to legitimise e-tolling," Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement.
But Mona said Sanral had no reason to believe that the parliamentary process would be delayed. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) still needed to finalise the Transport and Related Matters Amendment Bill, before it went back to the National Assembly for adoption.
"We have no reason to believe that it would encounter any major hurdles," Mona told SAfm.
"Parliament runs its own diary... but when we look at the timelines, we are saying the whole process must be over in two months' time."
He said Sanral had "several engagements" with Cosatu last year and that the trade union movement's concerns were now "being handled at a political level".
"This is a road that Gauteng motorists and business are deriving a benefit from...
"There are certain dues that as citizens we need to pay for. We pay for water, we pay for electricity. We now we have to pay for... this road.
"We've raised a loan on behalf of South Africa, and it is South Africa that must reap in the loan," said Mona.
The NCOP's Democratic Alliance member Elza van Lingen said on Thursday that Sanral's assumption the bill would be finalised within two months demonstrated "stubborn determination to rush ahead" with e-tolling, despite strong public resistance.
"The DA reminds both Sanral and the minister of transport that the NCOP is not a rubber-stamp for National Assembly and Cabinet decisions," she said.
"It is a separate house that must consider all legislation on its merits. We will not allow for this bill to be rushed through the NCOP to the detriment of South Africans."
The bill legalises e-tolling of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and was approved in the National Assembly.
In April last year, the High Court in Pretoria granted the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) an interdict approving a full judicial review before electronic tolling could be put into effect.
The interdict prevented Sanral from levying or collecting e-tolls pending the outcome of a review. Sanral and the National Treasury appealed the court order. In September, the Constitutional Court set aside the interim order.
In December the High Court in Pretoria dismissed Outa's application to scrap e-tolling.
On January 25 the court granted Outa leave to take the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein. The SCA hearing will take place in September.