Weighty support for Gama

2009-09-19 16:02

A HIGH-POWERED ANC zone is ­behind efforts to catapult embattled Transnet Freight Rail boss Siyabonga Gama into becoming Transnet’s next chief executive.

City Press has established that a meeting of the zone – which is made up of eight affluent northern Johannesburg suburbs, last Sunday resolved to support Gama in his bitter fight with the board of Transnet.

The meeting was held at information technology company Torque IT. Mthunzi Mdwaba is the group chief executive of Torque IT and an additional member of the branch ­executive committee of the ANC’s Rivonia Heroes branch.

Gama was suspended last month for alleged breaches of corporate governance. He has since challenged his suspension and the matter will be heard in the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.

Gama is a member of the Rivonia Heroes branch of the ANC.

Along with seven other branches – Houghton, Sandton, Hyde Park, Greenside, Orange Grove, Emmarentia and Inanda – Rivonia boasts some of the country’s most influential figures as members.

These include Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, Deputy Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, new ­labour director-general Jimmy Manyi, Gauteng ANC chief whip Brian Hlongwa and businessmen Sandile Zungu, Enos Banda, Israel Skhosana and Sello Rasethaba.

A number of ANC members from the zone told City Press that Gama made a presentation at the meeting about the Transnet saga.

“Gama was not on the agenda of the meeting. That meeting was called to induct new leaders, but the zonal chair (Zandile Tshabalala) introduced Gama and said he was a comrade who was under attack,” said one member.

“Gama then explained what was going on. We decided that we must support him. We must not allow this process to tarnish this comrade,” the member said.

Tshabalala confirmed that the meeting had taken place, but when pressed for further details promised to get back to City Press. Belinda Achiogoku, the secretary of the zone, also said she would have to consult first before responding to the questions City Press put to her. However, neither had done so or would answer their phones by the time of going to press.

Gama could also not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to people who were at the meeting, the ANC structure agreed to give Gama moral and, “if necessary”, financial support. There was even talk of a protest outside the South Gauteng High Court when Gama’s application to have his suspension nullified was heard.

The zone’s decision could pit it against President Jacob Zuma, who this week decried the public support given to Gama by Cabinet ministers, the ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League.

Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Zuma said it was “unfortunate” that “people” were publicly debating the Transnet saga while Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan was still handling it.

Two days before Thursday’s media briefing, Hogan – who called on all the parties involved in the saga to put Transnet’s interests first – said she would appoint a chief ­executive if the process dragged on.

However, City Press has been informed that Hogan’s comments did not go down well in some quarters of the ruling party.

A senior ANC leader said Hogan could not appoint a chief executive while Gama was fighting his suspension with Transnet.

“There must be a levelling of the playing field. You can’t subject one player to a hearing and want to close the chapter. I hope that somebody will prevail on her not to proceed,” the leader said.

Interestingly, though, a union leader said that Cosatu, whose congress starts tomorrow, had stayed out of the infighting at Transnet for fear that the federation could be embarrassed should Gama be found guilty at his disciplinary hearing.

“Let the disciplinary process be over and let’s see if Gama is really guilty. If he is not guilty, let him go and compete with everyone else,” the union leader said.

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