Sunday Times

Transnet boss digs in heels against fir­ing

Gama de­fies board bid to sack him over fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties

- By ZINGISA MVUMVU Transnet · Iceland · Austria · Popo Molefe · Cyril Ramaphosa · Belarus · Belgium · Bombardier · China · Colombia · Pravin Gordhan · General Electric

● Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama is re­fus­ing to step down from the lo­gis­tics util­ity, ar­gu­ing that the com­pany’s board has no au­thor­ity to re­move him.

In­stead, Gama has come out strongly against the Transnet board’s plan to fire him, giv­ing them un­til the end of busi­ness hours on Tues­day to drop the idea.

This is the lat­est chap­ter in a tit-for-tat bat­tle be­tween Gama and the board fol­low­ing dam­ag­ing find­ings against him over ten­der ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties at Transnet in­volv­ing bil­lions of rands.

In a let­ter sent on Fri­day to Transnet chair Popo Molefe, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa and pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, Gama — through lawyers — is ar­gu­ing that the board is jump­ing the gun by ask­ing him to ex­plain why he should not be fired when they had not re­sponded to his rep­re­sen­ta­tions filed in Au­gust in re­sponse to a no­tice of sus­pen­sion.

“The ter­mi­na­tion let­ter does not make any ref­er­ence to the let­ter of sus­pen­sion [or] our client’s re­sponse to the let­ter of sus­pen­sion re­ferred to above. The ter­mi­na­tion let­ter con­sti­tutes a re­pu­di­a­tion of the let­ter of sus­pen­sion,” reads the let­ter.

Gama was re­spond­ing to the Transnet board let­ter sent to him last week in which he was asked to pro­vide rea­sons why he should not be fired.

The Transnet board wants Gama re­moved from the util­ity af­ter sev­eral in­ves­tiga­tive re­ports fin­gered him over al­leged ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties which saw the cost of procur­ing 1,064 lo­co­mo­tives bal­loon­ing from R38.6bn to more than R49bn.

The bid to re­move Gama stems from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by law firms Werks­mans and MNS At­tor­neys, as well as the Na­tional Trea­sury, of the pur­chase of the lo­co­mo­tives from Gen­eral Elec­tric, Bom­bardier Trans­port, China South Rail and China North Rail.

The board also wants Gama to re­pay about R151m in over­pay­ments to Gup­talinked con­sul­tancy firm Reg­i­ments Cap­i­tal.

But Gama is dig­ging in his heels, say­ing the board has no power to re­move him and only the cabi­net can do so, through Gord­han, in terms of his em­ploy­ment con­tract.

“Our client made it clear that should the rel­e­vant au­thor­ity make a de­ci­sion to sus­pend him, he will de­clare a dis­pute in terms of his em­ploy­ment con­tract. The rel­e­vant au­thor­ity is the ap­point­ing au­thor­ity re­spon­si­ble for ap­point­ing CEs of or­gans of state or SOCs [state-owned com­pa­nies].”

Gama also said, through his lawyers, that he in­tended to hold in­di­vid­ual board mem­bers per­son­ally li­able for po­ten­tial le­gal costs as their ac­tion against him was not legally sound.

“Our in­struc­tion is to de­mand as we hereby do that the board with­draw the let­ter of ter­mi­na­tion within 48 hours af­ter re­ceipt of this let­ter, fail­ing which our client will ap­proach a court of law on an ur­gent ba­sis and ask for costs of an at­tor­ney and client scale from each board mem­ber per­son­ally as the fis­cus can­not be mulcted with costs re­lat­ing to a mat­ter where the le­gal po­si­tion is trite.”

Gama claims he called for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pro­cure­ment of the lo­co­mo­tives and has been co-op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors since.

“Our client was not in­volved with the ne­go­ti­a­tions and/or ad­ju­di­ca­tion of the 1,064 lo­co­mo­tives and as such he could not have pre­vented an award or non-award of the ten­der,” his lawyers told Molefe.

Molefe had not re­sponded to re­peated re­quests for com­ment at the time of go­ing to print.

Gama’s lawyers also de­clined to speak pub­licly about the mat­ter.

But, speak­ing for him­self, Gama said Molefe and the board were out to tar­nish his “good name”.

“It is there­fore my view that the board has sought to wrongly char­ac­terise me in or­der for them to cre­ate a neg­a­tive, al­beit an in­cor­rect, nar­ra­tive about me, be­smirch­ing my good name.

“I want to as­sure Transnet em­ploy­ees that all that is be­ing said about me goes against what they know about me and there­fore can­not be cor­rect. Many of them have called me ex­press­ing their un­wa­ver­ing sup­port. Your trust in me is not mis­placed. On the cor­rect plat­form I shall en­sure that I pro­tect my rep­u­ta­tion and my name with every­thing that I have.”

 ??  ?? Siyabonga Gama
Siyabonga Gama

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