Rail boss fights to stay

2010-06-12 13:14

Siyabonga Gama, the suspended chief ­executive of Transnet Freight

Rail (TFR), will fight to keep his job despite being found guilty of irregularly

awarding an R18?million security tender to a firm owned by his ­one-time golf

partner, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.

Gama’s lawyer Themba Langa said: “We are going to fight for

non-dismissal because we ­believe that what he has been found guilty of should

not lead to a dismissal.

“It is relevant to note that during his ­five-year tenure as TFR’s

chief executive, Gama concluded thousands of agreements and contracts yet he has

been found guilty of a single agreement involving R18?million.

“This is minute

for a chief executive of a company with a yearly turnover of R20?billion,” he


Langa said his client was waiting for the sentencing date following

an internal ­disciplinary process that arrived at a guilty judgment, contained

in a 200-page ­document. Already there is speculation that Gama’s days at

Transnet are numbered.

A source, who preferred not to be ­identified, said: “He was hit

with a guilty ­verdict and he is finished at Transnet.”

But Gama’s predicted sacking at TFR, ­formerly Spoornet, is not set

in stone and he might just face ­demotion.

In 2002, Gama’s predecessor, Zandile ­Jakavula, was demoted to the

position of ­human resources manager after he was found guilty of acting

inappropriately in buying a house owned by the parastatal in Port Alfred, a

coastal town in Eastern Cape.

It was alleged that he bought the house for R83?000, well below its

estimated market value of R450?000, and ordered Spoornet staff to renovate it

for R363?000.

Up until his suspension last year, Gama was considered a

frontrunner to succeed Maria Ramos – who joined banking group Absa in March last

year – as chief executive of bulk freight and transport logistics ­parastatal


Chris Wells has been the caretaker chief executive since Ramos’


TFR is the main cash cow for Transnet and, according to the latest

yearly financial results released this week, contributed R20.8?billion to the

parastatal’s R35.6?billion revenue, which grew 6% despite cargo ­volumes taking

a knock during the ­recession.

Ayanda Shezi, spokesperson for Public Enterprises Minister Barbara

Hogan, said Hogan would appoint a new Transnet board next month, which would

then spearhead the hunt for Ramos’ successor.

Shezi said: “We are aiming to appoint a new chairperson at a yearly

general ­meeting on July 23. This will be followed by the ­appointment of a new

board, which will then start the process of appointing a new chief


Langa claimed that Transnet had brought 21 charges against Gama. He

was found guilty on three.

But the 200-page document shows that Gama faced four charges, of

which three stuck while the fourth charge of breaching the Transnet ethics code

was never pursued.

Gama was found guilty of negligently ­signing a contract with

Nyanda’s company, General Nyanda Security Advisory Services (GNS), without first

reading it.

He exceeded his powers by signing a ­contract worth R18?million

when he was only allowed to sign contracts worth R10?million. Transnet also

nailed him for criticising the board in his court application to overturn his


The company accused Gama of giving the contract to Nyanda

irregularly, and said Nyanda was considered to be a friend of Gama’s and not an

acquaintance, as the executive had claimed.

Langa said Transnet had used the fact that Gama had played golf

with Nyanda to prove that the two were friends. ­

Under cross­examination, Gama

retracted his statement that he knew Nyanda as an acquaintance ­after Transnet

produced telephone records that showed the two were in contact more than three

times in 2007, the last time being days before Gama signed the GNS


The document reads: “Gama, however, ­denied that from his ­actual

relationship with Nyanda any ­inference could be drawn of an untoward



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