Johannesburg - Intense speculation that Siyabonga Gama, the chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail, had been shortlisted as a possible successor to Eskom’s former chief executive, Brian Dames, was dashed late yesterday.
Gama told Business Report he knew nothing about being a possible contender for possibly the toughest job in the country.
“It’s not something I’ve ever even thought of,” he said.
His name emerged when well-informed sources said last week that all heads of state-owned enterprises had been invited to apply for the post.
Gama’s was a surprise name when it was associated with Eskom as he has previously been tipped to replace Transnet chief executive Brian Molefe, should he receive the call to take on Eskom and its power supply problems, which are holding back economic growth.
However, the source said it was felt that Molefe was doing such a good job at Transnet that he should not move.
Apart from certificates in port and operations management, Transnet’s website notes that Gama has qualifications in commerce and advanced executive training.
But speaking to Business Report yesterday, Gama said he had no knowledge about being a contender for the job as he had never participated in the application process.
“It’s not something I’ve ever even thought of,” he said, responding to a question on whether he was open to moving to Eskom if asked to. Earlier this year, speculation arose that Molefe was one of the stronger contenders to succeed Dames and that Gama would subsequently take over from him.
But on Friday, Molefe, who has been praised for turning Transnet around since he took over in 2011, said that he was not aware of his name being raised officially for Eskom’s top post at any stage.
“It is not a new rumour. That is an unfounded rumour from questionable sources… I’m certainly not clearing my office [at Transnet],” he said.
While the shortlist has been compiled, it remains to be seen whether Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba will name the new chief before or after the May 7 elections, when there is certainty as to whether he will remain in charge of the public enterprises portfolio.
The elections are likely to determine the timing of the new appointment. Analysts and Parliament have already expressed their disapproval of any politically related appointment for this position.
Natasha Michaels, the DA spokeswoman for public enterprises, said: “The appointment must be based on who’s most suited, according to their skills. The person must be an expert.”