File photo: ANA

JOHANNESBURG - A trail of sackings left behind by former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has pitted the incumbent Joe Maswanganyi against former  Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) board members who are challenging their axing, and claiming it was a cover up to protect Acsa's chief executive.  

Kenosi Moroka, one of the four board members who were removed, wants the court to order Maswanganyi to reinstate him after he allegedly reneged on his re-appointment.  

“Our client was reinstated to the board on 31 May 2017 by you for a period ending 30 April 2019,” writes Moroka’s lawyer Vlad Movshovich to Maswanganyi.

“On 15 September 2017, at the Annual General Meeting of Acsa, the honourable deputy minister of transport, ostensibly acting on behalf of government…abstained from voting in relation to a resolution ratifying our client's reinstatement.”

Moroka had given Maswanganyi until the 10th of this month to confirm his reappointment. A deadline the minister has missed, setting the scene for a legal wrangle.

Peters in February axed board members Moroka, Kate Matlou, Bajabulile Luthuli and Chwayita Mabude on claims that the board needed to be strengthened with people with the necessary skills and expertise after the recommendations of an evaluation report.

The Board Evaluation Report for the period ended March 2016 highlighted defects in the skills arsenal of the board. 

The evaluation process received no responses from Moroka and Luthuli as to their skills matrix, while Matlou was said to have communications and financial accounting skills. 

Mabude was noted to have airport planning and chartered directorship skills. However, allegations persisted that the four were removed by Peters to protect Acsa chief executive Bongani Maseko from being suspended, who is still in his role.

Movshovich letter seemed to give credence to the allegations that the changes to the board was to protect Maseko. 

“As you will know, this matter first arose in context and as a result of the board’s decision in February 2017 to discipline the CEO of Acsa in view of the raft of allegations of irregular and unlawful conduct by him.”

“Not only has the CEO not faced the disciplinary process to date, but he has now been praised by the deputy minister at the AGM.” 

 A legal opinion by Norton Rose earlier this year recommended that Maseko be suspended along with legal counsel, Bongani Machobane, procurement manager, Percy Sithole and the general manager for regional airports, Jabu Khambule.  

The other three executives were suspended and went though a disciplinary process with final outcomes pending.. 

This followed a forensic investigation conducted by Dr VS Mncube Consulting, which uncovered damning supply chain breaches at the airport's company last year.  

On the third of February, the Acsa board resolved to suspend Maseko for breaching procurement policies. Acsa company secretary Nosisa Kekana wrote to Moroka informing him that a meeting would be held on the 20th were a resolution would be tabled for his removal and that of the three other directors. Kekana said the meeting intended to revoke clause 13.12.1 of the Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI). 

Moroka, through his attorneys, responded to Kekana’s letter on the 15th telling her that the notice of the board meeting was defective as it did not provide reasons for the proposed removals. 

However, Peters on the 16th removed the directors with immediate effect.  The removed board members then asked Peters to reinstate without any joy. 

The board members then approached Maswanganyi after his appointment to the helm of the ministry post a cabinet reshuffling in March with the same request.  Maswanganyi in

May sent a letter to Moroka informing him that he has been reinstated to the board of Acsa with immediate effect until 30 April 2019. 

The reinstatement of Moroka seems to have been further stymied by a legal opinion of law firm Hogan Lovells. 

The firm in May wrote to Maseko advising him that the Acsa MOI is silent on the power of the minister to review a decision taken by his predecessor.