Johannesburg - The resignation of SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) CEO Nazir Alli evoked mixed reaction on Tuesday.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), which was granted an urgent interdict in April to stop the launch of the controversial e-tolling system, said it "imagined" the e-tolling matter might have been a catalyst for Alli's resignation.
"Whatever the reasons, though, we wish Mr Alli every success in his endeavours going forward, and we look forward to working with Sanral to resolving the e-tolling issue," chairman Wayne Duvenhage said.
"Outa is still fully committed to its legal challenge and the full court review... We are, however, also keen to work with the authorities to resolve this matter to circumvent the further waste of taxpayers' money in court battles."
Duvenhage said ultimately the credibility of Sanral needed to be restored, as well as the country's ability to raise the necessary finance facilities at the best rates.
Outa's attorney Pieter Conradie said the resignation could effect the future of e-tolling.
"Mr Alli's resignation may have an effect on future decisions to be made with regard to the financing of the upgrades to the roads, and final decisions to be made with regard to e-tolling."
Earlier, Sanral board chairman Tembakazi Mnyaka announced that it had accepted Alli's resignation on Monday. He did not provide Alli's reasons. He said Alli would continue in his post until June 3.
In a statement, the department of transport said Alli will continue to work with Sanral on outstanding critical matters such as e-tolling until his departure.
"The board has indicated... that they are working on appointing a person to act as CEO when Mr. Alli eventually leaves the organisation, until the recruitment and selection process for a new CEO has been finalised," it said.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele wished Alli well in the future.
"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," said Ndebele.
"Under his leadership, South Africa developed a road network that can compete with the best in the world."
The department said it was working with Sanral to ensure that the country's road network continues to operate.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Democratic Alliance, the Freedom Front Plus and Justice Project SA (JPSA) welcomed the resignation.
"We hope that this marks the final end of the Gauteng e-tolling project of which he [Alli] was the chief public spokesperson," said Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven.
He said Alli had refused to listen to the groundswell of opposition and wanted to force residents pay huge amounts of money to travel on previously toll-free roads.
"He [Alli] 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 Craven.
The DA said it was "encouraged" by the move.
"He has done the honourable thing by resigning after the Gauteng e-toll fiasco," DA MPL Neil Campbell said in a statement.
"While he managed the construction of an excellent road network well, he is a poor communicator and we trust that his successor... will not only be an excellent manager, but also a good communicator."
The DA hoped Alli's successor would allow "real" public participation before making "contentious decisions... unilaterally".
Campbell said whoever took the reins would face a tough, uphill battle, and he wished them well.
The FFPlus said it hoped for a better leadership at the roads agency.
"The FFPlus is hopeful that Sanral will appoint a new CEO who will offer stronger leadership, that will interact with greater transparency and professionalism with the public in the fulfilling [of its] duties," said FFPlus parliamentary spokesman Anton Alberts.
He said the resignation raised questions about reports that e-toll contractors were involved in an arms deal.
Last week, the Public Protector was asked to investigate the e-toll collection contracts after reports that "politically-connected people" may have benefited from the toll companies contracted to Sanral.
The Electronic Tolling Collection (ETC) consortium is the company responsible for collecting e-toll fees.
At the time, the DA said there were allegations of links between Swedish companies involved in an arms deal, and Vienna-based Austrian company Kapsch TrafficCom, which was the largest shareholder in ETC.
The JPSA said the resignation was "progress".
"His resignation does not spell the 'death knell' of the e-tolling issue, but merely represents the removal of a single hurdle to progress on the resolution of this matter," it said in a statement.
"Whilst 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 their media announcement."
JPSA said this showed that Sanral had no intention of changing its ways when it came to communication.