Four men race for Transnet top job

2010-12-12 13:18

Johannesburg - The shadow of Siyabonga Gama looms large over the race to lead Transnet in its R100bn spending spree over the next five years.

Two ANC leaders on the ruling party’s deployment committee said the last time Gama’s name was discussed was last year, when President Jacob Zuma “told us” to stop meddling in ministers’ portfolios.

One of the ANC leaders said: “That was the last time we discussed it, but Siyabonga Gama is still our candidate.”

The deployment committee is expected to meet early in 2011 to consider the names of the people who should be appointed to the post left vacant after Maria Ramos’s departure to Absa early last year. It will then recommend its candidate to government.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said he expected the Transnet board, which he appointed this week, to lead the process of appointing a chief executive. The board starts its duties on Monday.

Gama may get backing from some board members, since he is a member of the ANC’s high-powered Rivonia Heroes branch along with Transnet board members Israel Skosana and Ellen Tshabalala.

Last year the branch, chaired by Tshabalala, stood behind Gama when he, then Transnet’s Freight Rail chief executive, was accused of corruption and an internal disciplinary hearing found him guilty of a breach of governance requirements in relation to two procurement contracts.

Even the transport unions are not opposed to Gama’s return.

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) president Ezrom Mabyana said the union, which is an affiliate of Cosatu, hoped that Transnet would find a competent person to lead the logistics company.

Satawu supported Gama during his fight with Transnet.

Mabyana said: “We believe some people might not support his candidacy. It is premature, though, to say what is likely to happen. At this point, I don’t think there is one candidate we can punt.”

But another union leader said Gama might not be a desirable candidate.

The source said: “He may not be supported by the market. Remember, his case was not nice.

“He was accused of corruption. Some people said he was corrupt; we defended him. If he is appointed, you may find that some people won’t take Transnet seriously. But we will wait and see.”

Lucky Montana, the chief executive of passenger rail utility Prasa, has emerged as labour’s other candidate, according to unionist.

Chris de Vos, the general secretary of the United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu), said although his union would support Gama, he did not think he would be the right choice for Transnet.

“For us really, it is going to be difficult to make a judgement call. Gama left a not-so-good shadow. It is going to be very difficult.

“One should be concerned about the reputation of Transnet if he is appointed. I don’t think it will be a good choice,” said De Vos.

Both Satawu and Utatu, the two largest unions at Transnet, welcomed the appointment of Mafika Mkwanazi as chairperson of the board.

Mkwanazi worked with Gama while he was the chief executive of Transnet, and Montana when he was in the public enterprises ministry.

Another candidate who has support within the ANC is Geoff Qhena, the chief executive at the Industrial Development Corporation. He is a former Transnet executive and worked closely with Mkwanazi.

Brian Molefe, former chief executive of the Public Investment Corporation, has emerged as a dark horse.

While the appointment of the Transnet board has brought a level of stability, business has raised some concerns about the efficiency of the parastatal.

Crying need for insfrastructure upgrade

Executive director at Agri SA Hans van der Merwe said he would like to see Transnet playing a role in revitalising rural transport infrastructure, as it is not servicing many farmers any more. About 80% of farm cargo is moved by road.

Van der Merwe also said that Transnet should improve the way it is managing its labour relations, as this year’s transport workers’ strike had a devastating effect on farmers.

“Certain sub-sectors of our industry, particularly those that export perishable products, could have been virtually wiped out by the strike,” said Van der Merwe.

Sello Rasethaba, executive director of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, said the new board should ensure that South Africa was competitive and efficient across the logistics chain.

“Goods must move quicker in an effective manner. We hope the new board will improve operations at our ports so that they compete with the best in the world,” said Rasethaba.

Sizwe Nkosi, the chief financial officer of junior coalminer Sekoko Resources, said he hoped the new board would help Transnet speed up its turnaround time in upgrading the Waterberg railway line in Limpopo.

Sekoko is engaged in negotiations with Transnet to develop another railway line in the Waterberg.

It currently has a single railway line, which allows for only one train to travel to a mine and back before another train can use the line.

“The senior and middle level managers are good at providing favourable feedback and interaction,” said Nkosi.

“But Transnet as a group is very slow to implement extending the railway line,” he said.

  • scud - 2010-12-12 13:46

    Lets be realistic-the R100b spending spree you refer to,is likely to be closer to R200b based on Transnet's cavalier attitude to taxpayers money,and its shoddy budgeting.This will lead to huge problems for SA

  • Tom - 2010-12-12 21:16

    Looks like it all about who knows who and more cadre deployments, no mention about the skills required and who actually can do the job. Greed is the driving force along with some very real conflicts of interests in ANC. Fail to see a fair and transparent process with the best interests of the country at hand.

  • Houston - 2010-12-12 22:49

    Let's see, 4 ANC BEE candidates and more than R100bn to blow - how many dolled up Beemers can they buy?

  • Tom - 2010-12-13 05:45

    Just close it down! What does Transnet do in any case?

  • Hugh - 2010-12-13 06:47

    In what way is Transnet "crippled" ?

  • Chillipeppa - 2010-12-13 08:17

    Gama was fired by Transnet in June. He should not even be considered for any position in Transnet. Zuma's pledge to clean up corruption was clearly not aimed at the ANC is just mouthing meaningless platitudes.

  • Des - 2010-12-13 08:36

    What about transparency, fairness and all that. Not ONE white, coloured or Indian name there. Wow, no surprise !!!!

  • jka - 2010-12-13 09:05

    80% of farm produce moved by road is rediculous. Drive the N7 and its just one truck after another - where is the frieght rail system this country needs???

  • PEEDEE - 2010-12-13 09:37

    Well said scud, they tried ladies and look at the mess they created.Ramos is awfully quiet. wonder why.....

  • Andy - 2010-12-13 09:43

    Gama must be the front-runner - he is the only one with: rail logistics experience, an inside understanding of the core businesses, shareholder support, and a sufficiently impressive track record in management. I must believe that the investor community will see the hatchet job that led to his departure for what it was. Remember that no corruption was alleged - only hinted at by his detractors (presumably he will have learned that association with the likes of Nyanda brings with it risk of reputational contamination). It is time to stop imagining that operational competence in a company the size of Transnet can be learnt on the job by a new CEO. Even Ramos' contribution turned around corporate finance/disposal of non-core assets rather than improving the core operations per se. At a time when Transnet must learn to dovetail operationally with the private sector, in order to grow its volumes and preserve its margins (to justify its enormous capex plan), operational track record is key.

  • JR - 2010-12-13 09:50

    4-BEE's racing for the top job where they will be earning 0ver R1.5-million p.a., while we old 'sporie'-pensioners, who worked our backsides off for 40+ years, getting our hands dirty in the workshops and on the footplates, are thrown the leftover crumbs by those who never did a day's work, doing what we did. Many of us had to sell our properties when our savings ran out just to barely stay alive, many existing on dog and cat food, and all we get are "maybe increases..."

  • cameron briceland - 2010-12-13 09:58

    The ANC and the unions cannot provide one competent person for the job. They are a sorry bunch of smooth talking thieves for stuff sake...I do not want to pay more for petrol to "fix" their finance problems for their bloody pipeline. Stop helping yourselves to the taxpayers money dammit.

  • Ivan - 2010-12-13 10:32

    Another BEE Mess Up for the "poor deprived (?) ANC majority. They blatantly steal from us and get promoted back to the Top Positions in South Africa, while the real poor one's continue to vote them in!

  • Rob - 2010-12-13 10:52

    Our rail infrastructure, and more specifically the management thereof, are a total shambles. Surely this is a job for a competent person who can affect change and thereby deliver more tax income to the government instead of cronyism trumping commercial sense?

  • martin albert - 2010-12-13 11:15

    What a mess and it is only going to get better! Mkhwanazi left a mess and is back at Chairman, Gama did the dirty with Nyanda, Montana has not covered himslef in glory at PRASA, etc. What this space as cadre appointments go out of their way to enrich themselves and their cronies. This gov has an inability to manage and govern according to acceptable business practices.

  • AJ - 2010-12-13 11:15

    All of these positions are filled according to popularity contests and struggle credentials. In fact the only thing not taken into account is how appropriate the candidate is from a business perspective. What a bizarre way to fill what are in the end, quite important posts.

  • Bushy - 2010-12-13 15:25

    Where does qualifications fit in with positions nowadays, it seems to get a top job these days you need to be a criminal or a apartheid cadre. Positions such as these need suitably qualified individuals. The ANC need to send themselves on a corporate governance course (if it will work?)

  • I work there - 2010-12-15 19:38

    @scud - You have a cavalier attitude towards the truth - Transnet is self funded and does not get any money from the government.

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