Former employee accuses Transnet of racism but parastatal denies claims

2019-03-04 06:02

A 36-year-old man, who claims that he battled institutionalised racism for more than a decade at one of South Africa's biggest parastatals, has told News24 his story.

Thabo Rampyapedi was filled with hope when he joined Transnet in 2008, only to leave the company disillusioned in 2015 because he found himself stagnant in the same position for years, he said.

Rampyapedi, who said white and Indian colleagues were given preferential treatment, was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing.

Almost four years have passed since then but the former technician refuses to give up his fight against alleged racism at Transnet.

"From 2008 till 2015, I and my black colleagues were racially discriminated against by a senior manager [Dr Robert Frohling] in Transnet Freight Rail Technology Management," he told News24 at his home in Tshwane.

Denial

Transnet has denied the racism allegations.

It all began in 2008 when Rampyapedi took offence with what he called the lack of empowerment and growth opportunities for black professionals in the form of further education and overseas trips.

"I started noticing that when it came to overseas trips and promotions, only white and Indian employees were considered," he claimed.

He claimed that black employees were overlooked in the following ways:

  • They were denied the opportunity to progress to higher positions.
  • They were not offered overseas trips.
  • They were victimised when they reported cases of racism.
  • Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) registration was used as a stumbling block against black employees.
  • The parastatal violated policies meant to promote black employees.
  • The parastatal did not employ black engineers from 2009 to 2014 in that section.

Rampyapedi compiled a report in June 2009, titled Racism in Transnet/Technology Management at its best, and presented it to management and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu).

The report included a list of racism complaints against the company.

Resignations

He said this occurred at the same time that there was a slew of resignations of black employees.

News24 saw a copy of one resignation letter, which was dated May 18, 2009 and it cited racial discrimination as the main reason for leaving.

The employee did not have another job lined up.

In another resignation letter seen by News 24 - dated June 20, 2018 - the employee cited injustice and discrimination as the reasons for his departure.

"Technology management needs engineering expertise, yet engineers are always pushed away in order to uplift pre-identified individuals. I can talk a lot about this (injustice and discrimination). The timing is not right," the employee, whose name is known to News24, said in an email to his colleagues.

Transnet confirmed that Rampyapedi was employed at the company but denied the racism claims.

"In 2015, Mr Rampyapedi made allegations of racism. The matter was given attention and independently investigated.

"The outcome was that the allegations were unfounded," spokesperson Molatwane Likhethe said in a response to News24 on Thursday.

The investigation was chaired by Yusuf Nagdee (a commissioner from Tokiso Dispute Settlement) between August and October 2014. On March 3, 2018, Nagdee presented the conclusion - that there was no racism under Frohling.

"In my view, the conclusion by Mr Nagdee was biased and fabricated. I requested the report in order to demonstrate this and management refused," Rampyapedi further alleged.

"There was a recommendation that a relationship-building initiative should take place to improve relationship deterioration arising out of perceived racism.

"Mr Rampyapedi, however, refused to participate in the recommended process," Likhethe added.

Transnet said, while all investigations at the organisation were treated as confidential, a decision was taken to discuss and disclose the findings of Rampyapedi's report to address the allegations.

Frohling has since denied all the racism allegations against him.

"I have no idea what the motive behind his claims are. I have not communicated with him in years.

"I categorically deny any instances of racism under my management at Transnet," he told News24.

But Rampyapedi said he won't let the matter rest and vowed to take it to Parliament and the Department of Public Enterprises.

"I'm hoping these issues are made known to the public so that relevant stakeholders can take it forward," he said.

Read more on:    transnet  |  racism
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