Popo Molefe appointed chair of Transnet's new interim board

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan has undertaken a broad shakeup at Transnet and appointed ANC veteran Popo Molefe as interim chairperson.

Molefe previously chaired the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Gordhan also removed the remaining members of the Transnet board. They are Seth Radebe, Potso Mathekga and Zainul Nagdee. They were removed as non-executive directors with immediate effect, the department of public enterprises said in a statement on Monday evening.

Molefe will chair the interim board and five interim members have been appointed. They are Louis Zeuner, Ramasela Ganda, Ursula Fikelepi, Edward Kieswetter and Dimakatso Matshog.

Gordhan has tackled allegations of corruption at the state freight agency, head on in recent weeks.

He announced the resignation of Transnet chairperson Linda Mabaso on May 3, as well as that of non-executive directors Vusi Nkonyane and Yasmin Forbes.

On April 19 Transnet chief financial officer and executive director Garry Pita also resigned.

"We have to hold directors of SOCs (state-owned companies) to a high standard of corporate governance and accountability and to protect the assets of the State,” Gordhan said in Monday evening’s statement.

The Minister is confident that the new interim board has the capacity to provide the kind of corporate governance needed during this period and to provide stability and certainty.

Molefe and the five other board members will act in an interim capacity, until cabinet approves their appointment.

Why Molefe?

Molefe, an ANC veteran, former premier of the North West and businessman earned a reputation for fighting corruption during his tenure at Prasa.

In July as outgoing Prasa chair,  he lashed out at Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi, accusing him of prejudicing the board’s investigation following former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Derailed report.

Maswanganyi was among the ministers removed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his February cabinet shakeup.

Molefe counted among the successes of the Prasa board the judgment of Francis J in Prasa v Swifambo Rail Leasing (Pty) Ltd, in terms of which Prasa succeeded in setting aside an unlawful contract amounting to approximately R2.6bn.

He also took former Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters to court to avoid the removal of the Prasa board.

In January, priority crimes unit, the Hawks told parliament they are investigating at least four separate potential criminal matters related to alleged corruption at Transnet.

Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama admitted to MPs in March that a  contract which saw  the advisory company set up by Gupta associate Salim Essa, Tequesta, earning a 21% fee that amounted to R5bn for facilitating a contract for 359 locomotives with China South Rail. This had earned the parastatal "a very bad name and a very bad reputation".

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