Gateway opens for Transnet suspensions
JOHANNESBURG – The Pretoria North High Court yesterday provided a boost to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s continuing tussle with Transnet after it dismissed as ‘rather vague’ former board member Seth Radebe’s bid to be reinstated.
Judge Hans J Fabricius described Radebe’s application to set aside his dismissal from the board as frivolous, paving way for the new board to introduce sweeping changes at the organisation.
High on the board’s list of priorities is the suspension of chief executive Siyabonga Gama as one of three employees implicated in “multiple investigations” commissioned by the Transnet board - in particular, the awarding of a tender to acquire 1064 locomotives, the cost of which escalated to more than R54billion.
Gama is the only one of three who has avoided suspension, after he challenged his suspension in responses to board chairperson Popo Molefe and appeals to Gordhan.
Last month, chief procurement officer Thamsanqa Jiyane and supply chain manager Lindiwe Mdletshe were suspended by the board, which is headed by Molefe, who moved to act following investigative reports by Werksmans Attorneys and Professor HE Wainer.
Fabricius found that the reports were “incomplete”, but maintained this “did not mean they were inconclusive and could not be acted upon”.
The court observed a lack of decisive actions by the previous board against Transnet employees implicated in corruption connected to the locomotives tender.
“Objectively speaking, there was sufficient evidence emanating from these reports to compile a charge sheet. There were also no good reason not to suspend certain individuals as a precautionary measure,” Fabricius ruled.
Radebe had argued that in a meeting with Gordhan at the release of the report, he was accused of “failing to suspend certain employees” as recommended by the investigation, although the report did not name specific individuals.
The employees, Gordhan responded in an answering affidavit, were the top three senior managers, as well as former chief executive Brian Molefe.
Radebe argued that “it would be irrational to suspend any employees from positions they no longer occupied” and that the allegations of impropriety took place before his appointment to the Transnet board.
Radebe was the only former director who approached the court to seek such relief.
Fabricius said that Gordhan’s reasons for replacing the previous Transnet board were explained wholly and adequately.
– BUSINESS REPORT