Popo Molefe. Picture: GALLO
Popo Molefe. Picture: GALLO

Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan has appointed a new interim board at state-owned Transnet with Popo Molefe at the helm.

Molefe is the former board chairman of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA and was heavily involved in fighting the corruption that had bedevilled that utility.

Gordhan said Molefe’s leadership, knowledge of transport logistics, mineral resources and diverse industries was expected to add value to the Transnet board.

The new board’s biggest challenge is to clean up the rot that crept in at the parastatal.

Earlier in May, Transnet chairwoman Linda Mabaso resigned along with nonexecutive directors Vusi Nkonyane and Yasmin Forbes.

In April, Transnet group chief financial officer Garry Pita resigned with immediate effect, citing health issues.

The three remaining directors — Seth Radebe, Potso Mathekga and Zainul Nagdee — made representations to Gordhan concerning their staying on the new board, but the minister decided to remove them as nonexecutive directors with immediate effect.

Other new interim board members are Louis Zeuner, Ramasela Ganda, Ursula Fikelepi, Edward Kieswetter and Dimakatso Matshoga.

Gordhan’s first priority as public enterprise minister has been getting state-owned enterprises boards and management teams on the right footing.

State-owned companies, including Transnet, and their board members have been implicated in allegations of state capture.

“Transnet is facing serious allegations of maladministration and corruption,” Gordhan said on Monday when he announced the new appointments.

“The previous board has not demonstrated appreciation of the seriousness of issues at hand or the ability to deal with these decisively in order to protect the entity in the interest of South Africans.”

In 2017, Transnet engaged law firm Werksmans to investigate what it called media allegations of impropriety linked to procurements from General Electric, Bombardier Transport, China South Rail and China North Rail.

Werksmans recommended that Transnet institute disciplinary action against individuals identified in the report and that law-enforcement agencies be brought in to investigate matters identified in the report.

In February 2018, the company’s spokesman, Molatwane Likhethe, described the Werksmans report as ”incomplete and inconclusive”.

He said at the time the board had decided not to act because investigators had been unable to reach some people, in particular former Transnet employees, as well as parties or companies outside of Transnet implicated in the allegations.

Gordhan said directors of state-owned companies had to be held to a high standard of co-operative governance and accountability and to protect the assets of the state.

He said he was confident that the new interim board had the capacity to provide the kind of corporate governance needed to provide stability and certainty.

The appointment of the new interim board is pending a full appointment in consultation with the Cabinet.