THE Department of Transport and its officials were on Thursday declared to be in contempt of six court orders issued in favour of National Traffic Information System (eNatis) operator Tasima.

The high court in Pretoria also ordered the committal of a number of department officials to prison for 30 days if they did not pay the amount owing to Tasima within two days of the order.

Tasima launched an application in August asking that the high court in Pretoria compel the department to comply with payment obligations amounting to R176m.

In December last year‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) held that the department could not transfer the eNatis system and its services to the department‚ except in terms of the transfer management plan as envisaged in the agreement for the provision of eNatis that was signed in 2001.

The appeal court also declared that a number of transport department officials were in contempt of various orders issued by the high court in Pretoria over the failure to comply with the agreement with Tasima.

Furthermore, the appeal court ordered that for the duration of the contract‚ the department should pay Tasima for all services rendered under the agreement.

After the SCA judgment‚ Tasima requested payment of certain outstanding payment certificates which the department had refused to pay.

In April‚ Pretoria high court Judge Annelie Basson ordered the department to pay Tasima the R176m and found that the department and its officials were in contempt of five high court orders and one from the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The department agreed with Tasima in a court order dated May 6‚ that‚ pending the appeal against the Supreme Court of Appeal order in the Constitutional Court‚ it would pay the amount due to Tasima by May 25.

On May 31‚ when the department had not made any payments‚ Tasima approached the court again‚ now requesting declarations of contempt of court and committal to prison.

Although the bulk of the amount had been paid‚ Tasima was still owed about R30m.

In a judgment on Thursday‚ Judge Cynthia Pretorius said it seemed that the department and its officials had not heeded a decision in another court which said "a court order stands and must be strictly obeyed until set aside by a higher court".

That decision also stated that the court which granted the original order did not have the right to nullify its effect or interfere with that order‚ except in very limited circumstances‚ Pretorius said.

She added that the main objectives of contempt proceedings were to vindicate the authority of the court and coerce litigants to comply with court orders. "It seems as if the [department and the Road Traffic Management Corporation] do not comply with court orders and this results in endless litigation."

TMG Digital