SA’s Transnet CEO and officials face suspension

Siyabonga Gama wearing glasses and black suit
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The chief executive of Transnet and two other senior officials have been told they will be suspended, the chairperson of the state-owned logistics utility said on Wednesday, without giving a reason for the possible suspensions.

Popo Molefe told talk radio station 702 that Transnet’s board had served CEO Siyabonga Gama, chief procurement officer Thamsanqa Jiyane and supply chain manager Lindiwe Mdletshe with notices of intention to suspend.

“The notice of suspension articulates a number of reasons but … I do not think it would be proper for us to ventilate those reasons so early before the actual disciplinary hearing starts, because we have given them opportunity to give us cause as to why we should not proceed (with suspension),” he said. The state firm, which operates nearly three-quarters of the African rail network, the bulk of which is in South Africa, is among utilities alleged to have granted contracts illegally.

It is investigating allegations of corruption in the procurement of 1 064 diesel and electric locomotives worth around R54 billion ($3.71 billion).

“We are a state company, that uses taxpayers’ money. We cannot allow the money of the taxpayers to be used in a manner that disregards due process, disregards public finance management requirements and disregards the procurement policy manual of the company,” Molefe said. “So we have to act to protect the interest of the South African public.”

Citing leaked documents and emails, amaBhungane, a group of non-profit investigative journalists, reported last year that the Gupta family and associates influenced the awarding of the locomotive contract in return for R5.3 billion in kickbacks.

The Guptas have denied any wrongdoing. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to clean up governance at companies such as Transnet in an effort to kick-start economic growth and woo foreign investment, which slumped during his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s nine years in power.