Johannesburg – Contrary to widespread assertions by supporters of former Transnet group chief executive Siyabonga Gama that he had been an ’’heir apparent’’ for the top job, the State Capture commission heard that was never the case.
This was revealed in the evidence of Christopher Todd, a partner (also called director) from law firm Bowman Gilfillian Attorneys, who was tasked with representing Transnet in legal matters between 2007 and 2010.
Todd was on Thursday called to testify before the commission to unravel the corruption web at Transnet. He had to give the background that led to the ’’capturing’’ of Transnet, starting from the time Gama was fired.
At the time, Gama was the chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail, one of the major and profitable divisions of the Transnet group.
Todd told the commission that around September 2009, Gama went to court to challenge a disciplinary hearing which had been instituted by the board. He said Gama alleged in court papers that the ultimate aim was to prevent him from taking over as the group’s chief executive.
The court dismissed Gama’s application and later refused him leave to appeal when he wanted to do so through his lawyer, advocate Themba Langa.
Todd revealed that two board members – through their court affidavits (which were meant to debunk Gama’s claims) – said Gama had never been a front runner while there was a recruitment process for the top Transnet job.
“In the affidavits, they made it very clear that they haven’t considered Mr Gama suitable, that the selection committee had not considered Mr Gama suitable for appointment to the group chief executive (position),” Todd told the commission.
Todd then revealed the gross misconduct for which Gama was fired. Among the three charges laid against him, two stands out.
The first was a tender to buy 50 locomotives at a cost of R800 million and the board wanted the assembling of the locomotives to be done by Transnet Engineering. However, Gama defied the board and appointed a company called STS and it had to be compensated when the contract was cancelled.
“That involved corruption, I say that quite simply because the project manager under Mr Gama, who executed it, had a personal interest…
’’The accountability for Mr Gama came because (the board said), ’we discussed this Mr Gama and we said it must not happen like that, yet it happened like that, you concluded a contract’,” he said.
The other one was a security contract of R18 million dubiously awarded to GNS, a security company owned by a former minister, General Siphiwe Nyanda.
Todd said the company “had no track record” and it later emerged it was also not registered with PSIRA (Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority) and had no employees.
“What Mr Gama has done wrong… he exceeded his authority because the annual value of the contract, on a proper calculation, was R18 million, whereas his delegated authority was R10 million,” said Todd, who added this tender was awarded in 2007.
At some point, the chairperson of the commission, Judge Raymond Zondo, wondered how Gama could be given a higher position within the Transnet after he was found guilty of serious misconduct.
“The commission will look at the fact that he ends up being appointed group CEO of Transnet. It’s like a promotion despite all of this,” Zondo said.