Former Transnet board member Seth Radebe. Picture: Zelda Venter

Pretoria - Former Transnet board member Seth Radebe lost his Gauteng High Court, Pretoria urgent application in which he challenged his dismissal by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

He was fired by Gordhan in May this year.

Judge Hans Fabricius also turned down his application for the removal of the new Transnet board.

Radebe, who was in court on Tuesday to receive the news, told IOL that he will consider his options after he had studied the judgment.

Radebe accused Gordhan of racially discriminating against him when he was ousted. He said Gordhan chose to fire the entire board, expect Arlana Kinley, who was appointed at the same time as him.

Radebe said Kinley, a member of the audit committee is white and she was never even asked to make representations as to why she should not be axed.

He asked the court to find that Gordhan’s conduct in firing him amounted to unfair discrimination and that it was thus unconstitutional and invalid.

Gordhan, on the other hand, said he was within his right to fire Radebe as the latter “had not complied with his fiduciary duties towards Transnet.”

He said there was “wholesale looting” at Transnet, in referring to the controversial procurement of 1 064 locomotives, at a cost of R54.5-billion. It was claimed that Gupta-linked company Tegeta received R5-million in kickbacks. He said Radebe did nothing to address these and other related issues.

It was argued on behalf of Gordhan that as the minister, he had a duty to ensure that “more money did not go down the drain.”  He said R17.4-billion belonging to the taxpayer were already wasted and the time had come to ensure that no more was wasted.

Judge Fabricius said against the background of the case, the decision by Gordhan to fire Radebe was rational and justifiable.

He said the board had failed Transnet in that it took no decision to set aside the irregular contracts, or at the very least, to halt further payments being made to the four entities still in the process of executing their contracts for the procurement of the 1064 locomotives.

“There was also a complete failure to act swiftly and decisively against possibly errant employees. In his (Gordhan’s) view the board was clearly not committed to eradicating corruption and the applicant (Radebe) had breached his fiduciary duties in this particular context.  This, together with what he (Gordhan) had perceived as his (Radebe) lenient approach towards service providers’, led to his decision to remove the applicant from the board of Transnet.”

The judge further said that it is clear that Radebe is acting in his own interest. “He seeks to protect his good name, reputation and integrity. He does not purport to act in the public interest or to act on behalf of others who are unable to do so.”  

Judge Fabricius also remarked that he noted from Radebe’s affidavit before court that his attitude towards Gordhan is “rather contemptuous. “He refers to his (Radebe’s) qualifications as ‘an experienced chartered accountant’  while the minister is 'a layperson and pharmacist’... It is clear that he had no confidence in the minister as the representative of the shareholders in Transnet. Yet he seeks reinstatement as non-executive director. It is not stated how this relationship could then be to the benefit of Transnet, or to the economy as a whole, which in my view is a critical consideration.”  

The judge added that in his view Gordhan, in firing Radebe, kept in mind the parlous position of the South African economy and the role that Transnet had to play therein.  

“The minister’s views were explained wholly and adequately in my opinion and there is no basis for  impugning the minister’s character, as unfortunately done in these proceedings by calling in question his academic qualifications.”  

In dismissing Radebe’s application, the judge ordered that each party had to foot its own legal bill.

Pretoria News