Transnet board chair Popo Molefe during a tea break at the state capture inquiry on May 7 2019 in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE SUNDAY TIMES
Transnet board chair Popo Molefe during a tea break at the state capture inquiry on May 7 2019 in Parktown, Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE SUNDAY TIMES

The model of state capture at Transnet was built on three basic pillars.

This is according to the state-owned company’s board chair‚ Popo Molefe‚ who told the state capture inquiry that on the board’s appointment in May 2018‚ they were “astonished by the widespread corruption and wilful disregard of the rules”.

On investigation‚ the board determined a pattern of a three-pronged approach through which the entity was captured before their appointment. The first‚ he told the commission‚ was “you are either with us or against us”.

“Employees who did not support the agenda were dismissed‚ transferred or rendered redundant. Those who could not stomach this kind of behaviour resigned‚” Molefe said.

The second was the flouting of decision-making in Transnet’s procurement processes.

“They used systems that facilitated state capture. [The controversial contract with Neotel] would provide an example where normally the process of determining the business needs‚ the quality of product required and the scope of work would originate from the owner of business. With Neotel‚ the memorandum comes from the top‚ it does not come from the owner of business‚” he said.

And lastly‚ those who stood in the way were forced out.

“Reprisals were enforced. There were concoctions‚ fabrication of charges and people subjected to disciplinary hearings‚ found guilty and fired. This has been the method used by those in power. The culture developed was that you don’t ask your superior questions‚ you just listen and carry out orders‚” Molefe said.

He attributed the corruption at Transnet to three people: former CEOs Brian Molefe and Siyabonga Gama and former CFO Anoj Singh. He described them as the “three key protagonists or architects of state capture at Transnet”.

“That kind of a situation‚ the prevalence of this rampant disregard for systems and rules‚ mechanisms put in place‚ suggest that there is a state of paralysis that has set in. The way in which monies would be siphoned off and nothing being done to stop it … it represented what I call a horror show‚” he said.

Providing an example of one of the issues his board came across when they took over‚ Molefe referred to the controversial deal between the Airports Company SA and Transnet‚ in which the latter purchased the old Durban airport for R1.9bn.

Molefe said construction at the site was to commence in 2020 but there was a “downturn” in the economy and Transnet itself had begun to experience a decline in volumes for exports. This resulted in a postponement.

But on visiting the site‚ while Gama was CEO‚ Molefe said they found companies illegally occupying the land.

“We found a number of businesses that had moved in to occupy what was Transnet land.… There was no lease arrangement. They were there. Transnet was not getting any money. Gama pretended that they did not know about this illegally occupied land‚” he said.

“We asked ourselves the question. They must have been paying money‚ who were they paying money to? They must have been assured that you can occupy this land‚ you can build a factory and a warehouse and nothing will happen to you.”

Molefe’s testimony is continuing.