Popo Molefe vows 'unflinching' stance if any corruption found at Transnet

Newly appointed Transnet interim chair Popo Molefe has promised to tackle corruption at the state-owned enterprises. However he said he is not going there assuming there is any wrongdoing as this would be “unfair”.

“If in the course of our work, we find that there are people who aren’t committed to carrying out the mandate of the organisation… naturally they will be dealt with… [I] have been unflinching about that in the past,” Molefe told Fin24 on Tuesday night by phone.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday evening undertook a broad shakeup at Transnet and appointed Molefe as interim chair. He previously chaired the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Molefe said it would be premature for him to comment on what needs to be done at the state freight agency, which has been plagued by allegations of corruption which are being investigated by the Hawks.

“I need to get in there and understand the environment, all I know is that the organisation has had major problems of governance.”

According to Molefe, Transnet needed a “functional board” to carry out its mandate of providing freight rail and infrastructure for the country’s ports.

Gordhan on Tuesday removed the remaining members of the Transnet board with immediate effect. They are Seth Radebe, Potso Mathekga and Zainul Nagdee.

Five interim members have been appointed to serve on the state freight company’s board alongside Molefe. They are Louis Zeuner, Ramasela Ganda, Ursula Fikelepi, Edward Kieswetter and Dimakatso Matshoga.

Molefe said he was not surprised by his appointment as Gordhan and the Department of Public Enterprises had previously told him they would need him but he was not certain which position this would be in.

He clashed with both former ministers of transport, Dipuo Peters and Joe Maswanganyi, during his tenure at Prasa and claimed they were hampering his corruption busting efforts.

There have been a spate of high profile resignations from Transnet in recent weeks with the parastatal’s chairperson Linda Mabaso resigning on May 3, as well as non-executive directors Vusi Nkonyane and Yasmin Forbes.

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

Transnet reputation

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 Tequesta earn a 21% fee amounting to R5bn for facilitating a contract for 359 locomotives with China South Rail had earned the parastatal "a very bad name and a very bad reputation".Tequesta was set up by Gupta associate Salim Essa.

Parliament’s committee on trade and industry has resolved to probe this deal.

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