Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has issued notices of intent to dismiss four Airports Company SA (Acsa) board members in a move seen as an attempt to shield CEO Bongani Maseko from being suspended and disciplined for flouting the parastatal’s supply chain rules.
The notices were issued late on Friday, with a shareholder meeting scheduled to take place next Monday.
The affected board members are nonexecutive directors John Lamola, McDonald Kenosi Moroka, Chwayita Mabude and Bajabulile Luthuli.
Peters is said to have caught the board off guard as some of the suspended members were due to meet with her to discuss a board resolution to suspend Maseko with immediate effect and to start instituting a disciplinary process against him. That board resolution was still to be ratified, said sources who asked not to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media.
The development follows a series of meetings at which the crisis-hit Acsa’s board discussed extending the suspensions of senior executives who have also been implicated in flouting the parastatal’s supply chain rules.
The auditor-general has previously said that Acsa’s accounting authority had not taken effective steps to prevent irregular expenditure and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, which is at the heart of the ructions at the company.
Procurement manager Percy Sithole, GM for regional airports Jabulani Khambule and legal counsel Bongani Machobane were suspended in September 2016. Their suspensions were due to expire on February 3. At an emergency board teleconference held on February 2, the board discussed extending the senior managers’ suspensions and continuing with the disciplinary action.
However, the fact that no action had been taken against Maseko, although implicated in flouting Acsa’s supply chain rules, was raised as problematic because the senior managers had used this at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to show that Acsa was inconsistent in applying its own rules.
There was also concern that Maseko’s presence would hinder a continuing internal forensic investigation and deter witnesses from coming forward and giving evidence
There was also concern that Maseko’s presence would hinder a continuing internal forensic investigation and deter witnesses from coming forward and giving evidence.
Acting board chairman Roshan Morar said on Sunday that he would be able to provide comment only on Tuesday.
Company secretary Nosisa Kekana, who had sent out the notice of the shareholder meeting on Friday, said she could not comment about the latest development because she was attending to a personal matter.
Lamola’s cellphone went unanswered; Luthuli asked to be called later but did not pick up her phone; Moroka said he could not comment because there had been "insinuations" made in the past; and Mabude referred questions to Acsa.
Other board members also refused to comment. One of them, Katie Matlou, said: "I am not ready to comment."
Matlodi Mabela, who is also on the board, referred questions to Acsa.
Department of Transport spokesman Ishmael Mnisi said: "It is so unfortunate that the issue you are raising relating to the CEO does not even form the subject matter of the agenda [of the shareholder meeting]. It may be of interest to note that, in this meeting, the minister will consider the board evaluation performance report commissioned by the board itself."
Acsa said it was unaware of any board meeting at which the CEO’s suspension had been discussed and that Maseko had not received any notice of intent to suspend him.