Controversial Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama is at the centre of a storm involving a R1billion tender awarded to German software company SAP. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi
JOHANNESBURG - Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama has questioned the veracity of the Werksmans report on the procurement of 1064 locomotives for R54 billion, charging that it should not be used to cast aspersions on the executives of the state-owned logistics and transport utility.

Gama said none of the Transnet executives were given a chance to interrogate the findings of the report.

He said the report was presented to the utility’s non-executive directors.

“For me, if you write a report that is going to implicate people, it is important that you do it with a necessary vigour,” he said.

“Also, if you are going to find people guilty of anything, you must ask them and say: ‘I am going to find you guilty on this, how do you respond to that?'

"The board, in its wisdom, found that there was a lack of understanding in the Werksmans report in terms of the inner workings of Transnet.”

Gama said findings in a report should be backed by facts. He said the former board was “probably” correct in its stance that the report was inconclusive and incomplete. “So how do you act on a report that has not been finalised? It would be unfair to do that,” he said.

The report has been a bone of contention since Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan publicly disagreed with Transnet’s past board on its handling. The previous board said the report was inconclusive.

On the other hand, Gordhan has instructed the new board, under the chairmanship of Popo Molefe, to act on the findings of the report.

That has set Gordhan on a collision course with former board member Seth Radebe, who has challenged the minister’s decision. Radebe has also threatened to take Gordhan to court over his removal from the board.

Gama also confirmed meeting Salim Essa, claiming that he tried to recruit him to the Gupta fold when he was still an acting chief executive. He said he dismissed Essa’s overtures, a move that he said could have contributed to the former board’s decision to delay his appointment as a permanent chief executive.

Gama became acting chief executive after former chief executive Brian Molefe moved to Eskom in April 2015.

He said the Transnet board was ready to announce the appointment of a chief executive and a chief financial officer in January 2016.

But on the day of the supposed appointment, the board only approved Garry Pita’s appointment as chief financial officer. He said he was being punished for rejecting Essa.

Gama was permanently appointed in April 2016, after a year in an acting capacity.

Gama said that in their meeting, Essa told him he represented the Guptas, who wanted him to do business with them. “He was recruiting me. I said: ‘What exactly is it that I am supposed to do if I am working with you?” He said Essa told him that the Guptas wanted VR Laser, a company owned by Ajay Gupta’s eldest son Kamal Kant Singhala, to do work at Transnet Port Terminals.

“So was I appointed by the Guptas? I have worked with a board which did not want to appoint me. But I have worked with it in the best way that I can,” he said.

Regarding alleged association with the Gupta family, Gama said he was a victim of circumstances, given the timing of his appointment. “Everybody believes that people who were appointed at that time, this was done because there was a linkage with the Guptas,” he said.

Gama’s appointment on a full-time basis came a few months after the alleged meeting between former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and Ajay Gupta at which Gupta allegedly offered him the minister of finance post.

He added that perceptions about the Gupta links did not bother him.

“I know myself. The most important thing in life is to know who you are. There is nothing that I have that I cannot account for,” he said.