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Nzimande: Endless reshuffles have been 'devastating' to transport dept

Jun 05 2018 14:31
Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town – Cabinet reshuffles have had a "devastating" impact on the transport department, says Transport Minister Blade Nzimande.

Nzimande was briefing the portfolio committee on transport on the status of vacancies within his department. It had been challenging to appoint new boards for entities within the transport department's portfolio, he said. 

The department was in the process of shortlisting for the director-general, as well as for five deputy director-general positions, he explained. He hoped that once the DG was appointed, the successful candidate could also participate in the interviews for the deputy director-generals. 

"The endless reshuffle has devastating impacts on departments. The vacancy of the DG and the five DDGs largely has to do with that," he said. The previous ministers were in the middle of the appointment processes, but this was interrupted by the reshuffles, he added.

 "I hope we can finalise this sooner [rather] than later … but I do not want to be seen as challenging presidential prerogatives. There may be good reasons for reshuffling, but I can see the negative impact.

"Maybe as part of the 'new dawn' we can concede those things."

Nzimande also lamented that he could only appoint boards, particularly at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) for 12 months, instead of the full term. He appointed an interim board in April, however, deciding on a short-term appointment because he was not comfortable to appoint a board for the full term, since further engagements were necessary to uncover issues at the entity.

"I want to appoint boards for full term and not do these things for 12 months. Appointing boards is not an easy process," he said.

Nzimande added that when it came to appointing boards, imperatives must be considered such as racial composition, issues of gender and sector representation. "You must understand we can’t have someone on the Sanral (South African National Roads Agency) who does not understand roads; or rail, in the case of Prasa."

Other SOEs

Nzimande also spoke about the appointment processes at other SOEs. He plans to appoint a new board for Sanral by the end of June. The previous board’s term expired in February, and terms were extended to June 2018.

He said that Sanral was not perfect, but that it was one of the department’s best entities, and praised South Africa's highways. Nzimande said that the president had asked him to engage with counterparts in the Southern African Development Community to better cooperate and use transport to support regional integration.

Nzimande did not have positive views on the Road Accident Fund (RAF) board. "Let me be open: When I met with the RAF they were fighting like no one’s business. At some point I thought there would be an exchange of blows," he said.

Nzimande has called an annual general meeting for the RAF to be held on Friday, where the minister will engage with them. He has also asked board members to consider resigning, so that the board can be reconstituted because it is "dysfunctional".

"I know they are adults – I have huge respect for them, but they can’t be acting like young boys and girls fighting," he said. Nzimande has explained that dissolving the board would not look good for board members, which is why he has given the option to resign. But he has not yet decided about whether he will dissolve the board or not.

"I am hoping they all resign," he said.

There are no vacancies at the Road Traffic Management Corporation’s board. Nzimande added that there was a process to finalise the shortlisting of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, the previous board’s contract was extended from November to May. Nzimande said he was concerned that the deadline was missed, but he was prioritising the appointments.

He added that he planned to finalise the appointment of the board of the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) by the end of June.

Nzimande would not comment on the reasons some board members had resigned. Fin24 previously reported that board members Siyakhula Simelane and Dr Matlhodi Mabela both resigned in April, citing concerns over corporate governance, among other things.

Additionally, allegations have been leveled against CEO Bongani Maseko, over gross misconduct.

Fin24 reported that in an affidavit by Bonginkosi Mfusi, the former group legal counsel for ACSA, the ACSA board "failed to act" on a board resolution dating from February 2017 to suspend and discipline Maseko on charges of gross misconduct arising following a forensic investigation.

To this, Nzimande said that Maseko should have a chance to respond to the allegations. "None of previous boards dealt with allegations levelled against the CEO. That is the sense I am getting - disagreements on how matters [are] dealt with," he said. 

Maseko’s term, which expired in May, has been extended to November by the minister to avoid a vacuum of leadership.

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