A corporate resignation seldom makes mainstream news, unless it’s a particularly big company or there’s a particularly juicy or political scandal.
But Wayne Duvenage’s departure from Avis, which he first joined almost three decades ago, is a little different. The difference: a certain e-tolling scandal.
Until a few months ago, Duvenage, 52, was just another chief executive sitting through meetings, sculpting strategy and playing the odd bit of golf. He was doing useful things, like finding ways to entrench a culture of better customer service or saving millions of litres of water - used to wash rental cars - through clever recycling initiatives, but not many people would have known that.
Then, all of a sudden, he became the chairman of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance and did what many thought could never be done. He raised some money and took the government to court over the controversial e-tolling project.
During the mighty court battle, Duvenage used many metaphors, from horses in stables to bouncing broncos. But essentially, e-tolling was a juggernaut that had been built using taxpayers’ money and Outa’s mission was to prevent it from leaving the depot, at least until it could be taken apart and examined.
The alliance claimed e-tolling was shrouded in secrets and the public could not challenge it earlier because they had no information about it.
In late April, in a landmark judgment, a Pretoria court interdicted the multi-billion rand project, lashing out at a lack of alternative routes or public transport. As judge Bill Prinsloo walked back into his chambers, Duvenage cried tears of joy. History had been made. David had defeated Goliath, at least for the time being.
A few hours later, he delivered a victory speech predicting that a new consciousness was being born.
The interdict was followed by a chain of events: a credit downgrade for Sanral; the resignation of its CEO, Nazir Alli, who later made a surprise comeback; the birth of an inter-ministerial committee headed by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe; a proposed new bill to pump more money into Sanral and, finally, a real declaration of war from government in the form of an appeal at the Constitutional Court.
This challenge is due to be heard in August, but the weeks leading up to it are likely to be a manic blur of preparation. The appeal will test the fundamental separation of power between the state and the courts. It will eclipse the Pretoria court battle, with both sides digging in for a fight.
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