Embattled Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama has taken his fight with his chairperson Popo Molefe to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, asking him to intervene in the standoff between the paratatals’s two most senior leaders.
In hardhitting and emotive letter to Gordhan – copied to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President David Mabuza - Gama calls on the minister to act to end the “the current very public but unnecessary debacle at Transnet that [was] spearheaded by the infantile actions of the chairman of the board”.
He says that the minister as “the shareholder representative” should take steps to deal with what he calls “the destabilisation that is brought about largely by the chairman”.
Gama, chief advanced manufacturing officer Thamsanqa Jiyane and supply chain manager Lindiwe Mdletshe are waiting to hear their fate after being asked to make submissions to the board about why they should not be suspended.
The three were given notice to suspend following findings by MNS and Werksmans attorneys.
Gama has waged a fightback, saying the reports were based on incomplete information and could prove costly for the state freight and ports company should any contracts be cancelled as a result of the reports.
In his letter Gama appealed to Gordhan to intervene to “subvert the untenable situation which threatens the future sustainability of Transnet”.
But board chairperson Molefe hit back, saying Gama had a duty to explain why confidential correspondence between the two of them, as well as the minister, “regularly finds its way into the media”.
Molefe said he and Gama had a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of Transnet and to conduct themselves in a manner that advances good corporate governance and integrity.
In his letter Gama said he had not been granted an opportunity to brief the board on the reports from MNS and Werksmans, which he deemed incomplete.
“There are lots of omissions in the investigations/misguided findings that result from the misinterpretation of statutes or regulations that apply to Transnet.
“It seems the board is more hellbent on finding someone culpable of something rather than ensuring that a proper investigation is done.
Gama warns of the "Prasarisation of Transnet" an apparent allusion to the crippling conflict between Molefe and the executive at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) when he was chairperson there.
He said he had indicated to Molefe that he was not afraid of any disciplinary action if it was a result of a proper investigation and he was prosecuted by an independent chairperson.
He warned that the result of accepting conclusions from investigators who did not have the capability to reconstruct Transnet processes would be dire.
“Transnet could conceivably be informed that it did not follow its own processes when it did; that the contracts it approved were irregular.
“This would open itself to litigation in excess of R150bn which it would be incapable to defend. It could cancel legitimate contracts and face huge damage claims.”
Gama said top management were disillusioned and their morale was very low, even though, according to him, management had produced the best results ever at Transnet.
“Profits soared by 75% to R4.9bn. But sadly the managers have been refused payment of their incentive bonuses, contrary to their contracts.
“They will find it hard to stay at Transnet under these circumstances.”
He said the managers had asked him to schedule a meeting with the board, but he had received no response.
“Members of the management who are highly capable and mobile will find it hard to stay in the employment of Transnet under the prevailing circumstances.”
Gama said he was innocent of accusations that he was implicated in state capture, arguing that he had opened cases of state capture with the police himself.
He claimed that in 2016, “when it was unpopular to do so, he had cancelled the contracts of Trillian and Regiments at Transnet and discontinued the contract of McKinsey”.
But Molefe said Gama and others were given notice more than two weeks ago that the board intended to suspend them.
“They can elect to provide reasons to the board as to why they should not be suspended and to participate in a bona fide legal process, including a forensic investigation instituted by the board, or they can choose to conduct a questionable public campaign in the media to advance their case.
“Either way, they have the opportunity to answer to the allegations against them and at some point proper evidence must be provided to the board,” Molefe said.
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