Gama battle for Transnet board

2010-06-19 13:31

The fate of embattled Siyabonga Gama, the suspended Transnet

Freight Rail chief executive who was the ANC’s preferred candidate for the top

job, will likely be in the hands of a new board.


Over the next four weeks interested parties are lobbying Public

Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan for their preferred candidates to make the

list of new board members, which is expected to be named next month.


This board is expected to then appoint Transnet’s next chief

executive – a job that Gama was eyeing.


Ayanda Shezi, Hogan’s spokesperson, said Andrew Shaw, the deputy

director-general responsible for transport enterprises in the department, was

­finalising the list of ­potential Transnet board candidates.


“Research on potential candidates is done based on the skills

requirements of each board member,” she said.


Getting a short list of names that the Cabinet will deem suitable

is a challenge as the ANC deployment committee prefers capable candidates who

are loyal to the party.


Thandi Modise, ANC deputy secretary-general and the party’s

deployment committee co-ordinator, said the committee was not involved in the

appointment of the Transnet board. She declined to comment further.


Early this year ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe complained

about the lack of consultation of the ruling party’s deployment committee by ANC

Cabinet ministers in the appointment of senior executives and board members of

parastatals.


An ANC member familiar with the appointment of the Transnet board

said the ANC may not want to spoil the chances of its candidates by publicly

supporting them.


Gama was found guilty by a disciplinary hearing, chaired by

advocate Mark Antrobus, of irregularly awarding an R18-million security tender

to a firm owned by Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda. Gama faces possible

dismissal by the board.


This week Hogan said the parastatal would seek to dismiss Gama, who

is challenging Antrobus’s verdict.

His lawyers ­allege that Antrobus was biased

because he had been doing work for Transnet.


Although the date for Gama’s sentencing has not been finalised, it

appears that the task of approving or rejecting Antrobus’s sanction will fall in

the lap of the new board.


The hiring of a new Transnet boss may still happen even if the Gama

case is not resolved.


In a similar case involving a parastatal, Hogan this week appointed

Brian Dames as the chief executive of Eskom while the utility is still in court

with its former boss, Jacob Maroga, who is challenging his dismissal.


Dalia Lichtenstein, a partner at labour law specialists Bagraims

Attorneys, says if Gama is fired, depending on how sophisticated his employment

contract is, he has an option of invoking the right of recourse clause, which

would allow for a private arbitrator to resolve the dispute.


Otherwise the dispute would go to the Public Sector Bargaining

Council, where a commissioner would determine whether Gama’s dismissal was fair

or not.


Lichtenstein adds that if the commissioner rules against Gama, he

has another option: escalating the dispute to the Labour Court, where the matter

could drag on for at least three years.


But this option is expensive and disgruntled employees normally do

not choose it.

 

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