With his trademark chuckle, mass of grey hair, suave and perfect-fit suits, Nazir Alli was the face of Sanral. Now he has gone, and the speculation is that he was pushed.
For months there were rumours that Sanral CEO Alli’s resignation was coming, but when it did eventually happen, many were surprised.
According to employees, Sanral was in chaos yesterday, with nobody really knowing what had happened.
There was speculation that Alli had been forced to hand in his resignation – the fall guy in what has turned out to be the e-tolling fiasco – but nobody really knew what happened behind the scenes.
Many employees were left shocked by the announcement, for this was the man who had formed Sanral after leaving the Department of Transport as a director to become the CEO of the new agency in 1998.
With Alli at its helm, the agency grew to be viewed as one of the most successful government agencies; that was until the e-tolling saga began.
It was only when the chairwoman of Sanral’s board, Tembakazi Mnyaka, released a statement early yesterday morning that the news of Alli’s departure became known. This was surprising, as on Monday Alli had a letter published in Business Day defending the e-tolling contracts and insisting they were clean.
Twenty-four hours later Mnyaka in a statement, said it was decided at a board meeting held on Monday to accept Alli’s resignation. He will continue in his post until June 3.
Later yesterday, the Department of Transport issued a statement saying Minister S’bu Ndebele had been informed by Sanral’s board of directors that Alli had resigned. There was no word as yet on who would replace him as CEO.
The minister praised Alli “for his sterling contribution”. “On behalf of the transport family, we express our sincere gratitude to Mr Alli for his tireless efforts and contribution since the inception of Sanral in 1998,” Ndebele said.
The cabinet had appointed an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the deputy president, to co-ordinate all work related to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, said Ndebele. The minister appeared to be the only person praising Alli for the work he achieved, as most organisations were pleased with his withdrawal from the e-tolling project, saying he had dealt with opposition with arrogance.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance said they wished Alli success in his future and they looked forward to working with Sanral to resolve the e-tolling issue, saying that ultimately the credibility of Sanral needed to be restored, along with the country’s ability to raise the necessary finance to get the road-building programme back on track.
Cosatu said they hoped Alli’s resignation would mean the end of the e-tolling project.
“Alli refused to listen to the groundswell of opposition to the deeply unpopular plan to commodify our public roads and force residents to pay huge amounts of money to travel on previously toll-free roads. He arrogantly tried to bully and blackmail motorists to register with Sanral and buy e-tags, which only made them even more determined to resist,” said Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven.
Howard Dembovsky, from the Justice Project SA, said that while he felt Alli had done the honourable thing by resigning, it was important to remember the e-tolling saga would not have continued without support from the Department of Transport.
“While Mr Alli’s dictatorial and often aggressive style has angered many over the years, it is interesting to note that Sanral has stated that it will not entertain any further comment beyond its media announcement,” Dembovsky said.
“This shows that Mr Alli’s claims to the effect that he was merely implementing the policy of his employers are not only true, but stand as a clear indictment that Sanral has no intention of changing its ways when it comes to communication.”