The South African National Road Agency (Sanral) has appointed Koos Smit as acting chief executive following the resignation of its long-time CEO Nazir Alli on Tuesday.
Smit is a long-standing member of the agency’s executive management team and will take over from Alli on June 3.
He will remain in the position until a new chief executive is chosen. In a statement released on Wednesday, Sanral said it had every confidence that Smit would ensure that the agency’s daily operations continue as normal.
Alli’s resignation on Tuesday, from the post he had come to define over the past 14 years, came as a shock to many.
Sanral did not provide any reasons for Alli’s resignation and Alli himself is out of the country and not available for comment. This has lead to a flurry of speculation about whether Alli had been pressured into quitting.
On Wednesday the board moved to quash rumours that Alli had been asked to resign.
“This was Mr Alli’s own choice. He was not asked to resign. In fact, in the recent performance assessment of the CEO, the board assessed him as well above average in his performance,” it said, adding that under his leadership, Sanral had for a number of years been one of the best-performing state owned enterprises.
Sanral said Alli did not elaborate on factors that influenced his decision in his letter of resignation. “While acknowledging the pressure on Sanral in recent times, the board did not believe it necessary in the circumstances to try to explore with him his personal deliberations and reflections,” said Sanral.
The board said Alli’s decision should be “respected rather than interrogated”. Over the past few months, public anger over the controversial scheme to toll sections of Gauteng’s national roads have been directed at Sanral and Alli in particular and recent reports have alleged corruption in Sanral’s tender processes.
Cosatu has said that the scheme needs to be investigated thoroughly and the DA has asked the public protector to investigate the matter. Alli himself consistently defended Sanral’s integrity and invited investigation into its processes from either the public protector, auditor general or a commission of inquiry.
The scheme ground to at the end of April after the courts interdicted the implementation of the toll system, despite Sanral and treasury’s insistence that this would have dire consequences for the roads agency and the country as a whole.
On Tuesday national treasury has told parliament that even with “major sacrifices” Sanral would only be able to keep going for another six months. Sanral manages over 16 000 kilometres of the national road network, 3 000 of which are tolled.