Johannesburg - Siyabonga Gama, the suspended CEO of Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), will fight to keep his job despite being found guilty of irregularly awarding an R18m security tender to a firm owned by his one-time golf partner, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.
Gama’s lawyer Themba Langa said: "We are going to fight for non-dismissal because we believe that what he has been found guilty of should not lead to a dismissal.
"It is relevant to note that during his five-year tenure as TFR’s chief executive, Gama concluded thousands of agreements and contracts yet he has been found guilty of a single agreement involving R18m.
"This is minute for a chief executive of a company with a yearly turnover of R20bn," he said.
Langa said his client was waiting for the sentencing date following an internal disciplinary process that arrived at a guilty judgment, contained in a 200-page document.
Already there is speculation that Gama’s days at Transnet are numbered.
A source, who preferred not to be identified, said: "He was hit with a guilty verdict and he is finished at Transnet."
But Gama’s predicted sacking at TFR, formerly Spoornet, is not set in stone and he might just face demotion.
In 2002 Gama’s predecessor, Zandile Jakavula, was demoted to the position of human resources manager after he was found guilty of acting inappropriately in buying a house owned by the parastatal in Port Alfred.
It was alleged that he bought the house for R83 000, well below its estimated market value of R450 000, and ordered Spoornet staff to renovate it for R363 000.
Up until his suspension last year, Gama was considered a frontrunner to succeed Maria Ramos – who joined banking group Absa in March last year – as CEO of bulk freight and transport logistics parastatal Transnet.
Chris Wells has been the caretaker CEO since Ramos’ departure.
TFR is the main cash cow for Transnet and, according to the latest yearly financial results released this week, contributed R20.8?bn to the parastatal’s R35.6bn revenue, which grew 6% despite cargo volumes taking a knock during the recession.
Ayanda Shezi, spokesperson for Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan, said Hogan would appoint a new Transnet board next month, which would then spearhead the hunt for Ramos’ successor.
Shezi said: "We are aiming to appoint a new chairperson at a yearly general meeting on July 23.
"This will be followed by the appointment of a new board, which will then start the process of appointing a new chief executive."
Langa claimed that Transnet had brought 21 charges against Gama.
He was found guilty on three.
But the 200-page document shows that Gama faced four charges, of which three stuck while the fourth charge of breaching the Transnet ethics code was never pursued.
Gama was found guilty of negligently signing a contract with Nyanda’s company, General Nyanda Security Advisory Services (GNS), without first reading it.
He exceeded his powers by signing a contract worth R18m when he was only allowed to sign contracts worth R10m.
Transnet also nailed him for criticising the board in his court application to overturn his suspension.
The company accused Gama of giving the contract to Nyanda irregularly, and said Nyanda was considered to be a friend of Gama’s and not an acquaintance, as the executive had claimed.
Langa said Transnet had used the fact that Gama had played golf with Nyanda to prove that the two were friends.
Under cross-examination, Gama retracted his statement that he knew Nyanda as an acquaintance after Transnet produced telephone records that showed the two were in contact more than three times in 2007, the last time being days before Gama signed the GNS contract.
The document reads: "Gama, however, denied that from his actual relationship with Nyanda any inference could be drawn of an untoward relationship.”
- City Press