The Dube TradePort at La Mercy, north of Durban. Picture: Russell Cleaver

Durban - Dube TradePort has been rocked by another resignation. Ahmed Bassa, the aeronautical project executive, has quit within a week of the resignation of long-time CEO Rohan Persad, who has been fingered in graft allegations.

The allegations relate to Persad taking kickbacks from Alex McRoberts, a director of Worldwide Flight Services SA, the company that had the operating contract for Dube TradePort’s cargo terminal at King Shaka International Airport.

The acting CEO of the provincial parastatal, Ayesha Swalah, confirmed to The Mercury yesterday that Bassa had resigned on Monday.

She said Bassa’s reason for resigning was that it was “time for him to move on to newer opportunities”.

Bassa was a senior executive at Dube TradePort and was in charge of strategic aviation-related activities, including dealing with cargo terminal operations and directly with Worldwide Flight Services SA when it had the operating contract.

He also handled Dube TradePort’s route development plans to secure more airlines to fly to the airport, including working with SA Express to establish an African air route network out of Durban.

Bassa did not respond to several messages left by The Mercury seeking comment. Swalah also would not comment further on the latest resignation or the impact it could have on Dube TradePort’s operations.

The allegations against Persad were first exposed in The Mercury’s sister paper the Sunday Tribune on July 8.

The board responded by putting Persad on a cautionary suspension on July 12, and appointed independent auditing firm PwC to undertake a probity report into the Worldwide Flight Services SA contract. On August 8, when the board met to discuss the probity report, it had received Persad’s letter of resignation.

“There are no executives within Dube TradePort who are under investigation, and there is no evidence suggesting that there should be,” said Bridgette Gasa, chairwoman of the Dube TradePort board.

Gasa would not comment on whether Persad would be charged or a wider investigation would be commissioned.

However, the board is due to meet KZN Economic Development MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu on Friday.

Gasa said: “The board is focusing its energies in trying to find a new head for the organisation… Executives leave organisations all the time, the world over, and their departure hardly disrupts operations.

“Dube TradePort is a firm organisation with ably qualified executives and senior managers… who are more than capable of managing such transitions.”

She added that Dube TradePort had just received an unqualified audit from the auditor-general, which was “a commitment we made, which we are delighted at having achieved”.

Since the corruption claims first broke, Persad has gone to ground and not publicly denied the claims.

The Dube TradePort board is legally obliged to lay criminal charges against Persad and any others involved, in accordance with the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. The law obliges them to act if the amount of the alleged corruption is R100 000 or more.

McRoberts, who is based in England, is also not in the clear. The UK Bribery Act allows for its citizens to be prosecuted on home soil for crimes committed abroad. - The Mercury