Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama nears the end of the line
After the suspension of Thamsanqa Jiyane and Lindiwe Mdletshe, Gama is expected soon to follow — but has said he will fight suspension
Two senior Transnet officials, implicated in the dodgy procurement of 1,064 diesel and electric locomotives, have officially been suspended, with embattled CEO Siyabonga Gama expected to follow soon.
Thamsanqa Jiyane, chief officer of advanced manufacturing at Transnet Engineering, and Lindiwe Mdletshe, senior manager for strategic sourcing at Transnet Freight Rail, were served with official suspension letters on Thursday, following a special board meeting on Wednesday.
Gama is expected to be notified of his suspension soon, following a meeting between the board and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
Gama has already indicated that he will fight a suspension.
Transnet, which has been mired in allegations of state capture, is the biggest freight company in SA and has a monopoly or near-monopoly over ports, freight rail and fuel pipelines.
The suspensions follow investigations by law firms Werksmans and MNS Attorneys, as well as the Treasury, into allegations of impropriety linked to the R54bn purchase of locomotives from General Electric, Bombardier Transport, China South Rail and China North Rail.
The board confirmed that Jiyane and Mdletshe were suspended after finding their representations on reasons for them not to be suspended “implausible”. Their continued presence at Transnet was “likely to hinder and prejudice further forensic investigations that the board has instituted”, chairman Popo Molefe said.
Further charges against the two included withholding company information from the forensic investigation that was crucial and relevant to the locomotives tender, not co-operating with investigators and refusing to hand over company property in the form of laptops, mobile phones and other devices, he said.
Jiyane, Mdletshe and Gama were implicated in the original Werksmans report, with the law firm recommending disciplinary action against them and that law enforcement agencies be brought in to investigate matters identified in the report.
The MNS report mirrored Werksmans’ findings, while the draft Treasury report implicated Gama.
In addition, the leaked Gupta e-mails contained claims that Gupta-linked entities received multibillion-rand kickbacks as part of the locomotives deal.
The Transnet matter has since become politically charged, with loyalists of former president Jacob Zuma in the ANC leadership lining up to defend Gama. The EFF also wrote a letter to board members of state-owned entities criticising Gordhan’s “reign of terror” at Transnet.
The Transnet board served Gama, Jiyane and Mdletshe with notices of intention to suspend them on August 16.
In a letter to Transnet board chairman Popo Molefe on August 28, Gama’s lawyers said there was no “legal or factual basis” for placing Gama on precautionary suspension.
“Should, notwithstanding the reason stated above, a decision be taken by a relevant authority, our client declares a dispute in terms of his contract of employment,” said the letter, seen by Business Day.
Gama’s lawyer Nano Matlala said in the letter to Molefe his client was not involved in the negotiations for and adjudication of the locomotives tender. Matlala said the matters relating to the award were reserved for the board of Transnet and that Gama was not a member of the board at the time.
He also claimed that Gama did not block the investigations into the tender and, in fact, had assisted the investigators.
Molefe said the board would “execute other resolutions” confirmed by Wednesday’s meeting in due course.