Transnet secures key leadership with new CEO and CFO appointments

New leadership for Transnet. File photo

New leadership for Transnet. File photo

Published Feb 29, 2024


Transnet acting CEO Michelle Phillips has been appointed as the CEO of the ailing state-owned logistics group Transnet, while Nosipho Maphumulo has been appointed as group chief financial officer (CFO), the Department of Public Enterprise said yesterday.

These two executives will have their hands full in helping lead the turnaround of the ailing parastatal, with its major rail and port challenges that have paralysed the logistics of South Africa, losing the fiscus billions of rand.

Transnet acting CEO Michelle Phillips has been appointed as the CEO.

Phillips is the longest-serving executive who remained at Transnet following a number of high-profile resignations. She has held a number of crucial posts at the logistics utility that has committed to a restructuring that includes allowing third-party interests to operate some of its facilities.

Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said yesterday in a statement that these were critical appointments that represented “our steadfast commitment as government to equip Transnet with a competent and experienced executive leadership team to drive the strategic interventions that the board has put in place as part of the Transnet recovery plan.”

He said there had already been improvements in the performance of ports and rails while Phillips was acting CEO.

“She leads the entire business operations and the leadership team. Ms Phillips is well regarded by the market as a problem solver with good networks. She has a track record of being a team player and collaborator to achieve business objectives. Michelle has over 20 years of experience in Transnet in various roles and she knows what it takes to turn the business around,” said Gordhan.

Phillips previously held roles such as Continuous Improvement Manager at Transnet National Ports Authority, Regional Legal and Contracts Manager at Transnet Port Terminals, and Business Unit Executive at Pier 1 Container Terminal from 2001 to 2010.

From August 2019 to June 2020, she acted as chief executive for Transnet Port Terminals and has been CEO at Transnet Pipelines since August 2020.

Upon assuming the role of CEO at Transnet Pipelines, Michelle Phillips encountered a division grappling with issues such as poor governance, theft, spillage, and subpar performance, which she successfully transformed, according to Gordhan.

Over an 18-month period, she saved the business a substantial R1.5 billion. Furthermore, Phillips swiftly addressed long-standing challenges by completing the LNG terminals and Sapref tanks shortly after her appointment as CE of Transnet Pipelines.

Her arrival coincides with a crucial moment for the revitalisation of the beleaguered logistics parastatal, which has faced significant scrutiny.

However, aiding Phillips will be the Freight Logistics Roadmap, which in December 2023 was approved by Cabinet to address the country’s increasingly unreliable logistics system.

The roadmap outlines immediate steps needed to improve port equipment, locomotive availability and network security. It also sets out a clear plan to enhance efficiencies, facilitate the introduction of competition and to leverage the financial as well as the technical support of the private sector.

In this regard, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced that third-party access to the freight rail network will be introduced by May 2024.

Earlier this month Godongwana announced in the Budget speech that Transnet will be getting R47 billion to aid the entity its recovery plan

Meanwhile, Gordhan said Maphumulo was a highly-accomplished business leader, financial steward, operational strategist, change catalyst and trusted advisor, offering extensive experience, providing sound financial and commercial guidance in complex and demanding environments. She had experience in financial management in a large complex commercial organisation.

Gordhan thanked the Transnet board led by the chairperson, Andile Sangqu, for steering the recruitment process “in an expeditious manner and for ensuring that the requisite skills and experience were brought into Transnet to add impetus to the reforms aimed at recovering rail volumes, improving port operations and stabilising Transnet finances.”

“We are confident these appointments will provide Transnet with the strategic direction and the ability to execute on its ongoing reforms, including the implementation of the provisions of the Freight Logistics Roadmap which envisages the granting of access for private rail operators soon,” said Gordhan.