SANRAL's Nazir Alli staying on at South African national toller

May 31, 2012

2012-05-31: Nazir Alli, the longtime head of the South Africa National Roads Agency (SANRAL) is to stay on as chief executive after all, suggesting that the Government may be strengthening its resolve to see through the controversial Gauteng e-toll system. The country's deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe is quoted in local reports as saying that Alli will "stay put."

Alli had tendered his resignation a month ago saying he had become a problem for the Government, but the resignation letter was not being acted on.

Motlanthe said problems with the implementation of tolling "did not revolve around (Alli)" and the board of SANRAl which he leads needs him to stay on.

South Africa's transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele said the same - that Alli was saying in his resignation letter "If I'm the problem, I want to remove myself," but that the government felt he wasn't the problem so his resignation was "not on", adding: "we need all the experience that we have, we want all hands on deck."

"Dire consequences" for country if tolls aren't collected

Deputy president Motlanthe said that failure to meet the contractual obligations on the Gauteng tollroad debt of R20b, $2.5b would have "dire consequences" for SANRAL and for the country. The government will temporarily provide SANRAL with assistance to meet its obligations in the absence of a toll revenue stream, he said. But this would be at the expense of other government programs and was only a stopgap.

After earlier postponements the extensive toll system in the country's major metro area (9 million people populating Johannesburg and Pretoria) was all set to go live April 30. But with only two days to go a judge Bill Prinsloo issued a stay order (or 'interdict' in local legalese) against the start-up of tolling and ordered the case to a full court hearing - which could leave the toll system idle into next year.

Finance minister seeks appeals court set-aside of toll stay

In another sign of government resolve the country's finance minister Pravin Gordhan is seeking a quick order from the country's constitutional court to set aside the judge's April 28 stay on tolling.

Toll revenue bonds were issued to finance major reconstruction and widening of some 185km, 115 miles of key expressways in the Gauteng area on the basis of the commitment to tolling them.

Free Avis car rentals?

The legal challenge to tolling was led by executives of the Avis car rental company and other businesses but given street 'muscle' by labor union and populist groups who turned on rowdy demonstrations and picketing.

Judge Prinsloo's stay seemed a product of an emotional reaction to tales of hardship by a handful of road users - overlooking the fact that benefits to users will exceed toll costs, or people won't remain users!

Half a million transponders are on issue and customer service centers and toll road services staffed up with over 1,000 employees who can't work because of the judicial 'stay.'

TOLLROADSnews 2012-05-31

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