Transnet shuffle on the cards
Transnet is planning to streamline its operations and reduce the number of executives in all its divisions, the Mail & Guardian has established.
Such restructuring in the state-owned freight transport and logistics company may be at odds with the presidency’s position, which is that no large-scale restructuring should be undertaken while a review of parastatals’ mandates is under way.
The M&G has obtained tape recordings suggesting substantial changes are on the cards at Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), where suspended chief executive Siyabonga Gama continues to fight his like dismissal over governance lapses.
The recordings also allude to restructuring across the group, and a senior government official familiar with the plans hinted that the key ports division may be affected.
That would be “illegal”, the official, who is an ANC national executive committee member, told the M&G. “If, as Transnet is intending to consolidate the port authority with Transnet, this would be illegal because this is not stipulated in the Act that regulates parastatals,” the official said.
Transnet has been at the centre of a political storm and ANC politicians are divided on the direction the organisation should take.
The parastatal’s plans are discussed between Pradeep Maharaj, Transnet’s group executive for human resources, and company executives in recorded conversations in the M&G‘s possession.
In these conversations Maharaj offers exit packages to TFR executives and says Transnet management is unhappy with the company’s structure, which he suggests is top-heavy.
Management intends to reduce its executive committee from 16 members to eight, Maharaj says on tape: “The current structures and regions [do] not make sense. Having [an] exco [executive committee] of 16 people is inappropriate. The executive committee [of Transnet] asked me to relook at the size of excos [in all divisions].”
On the tape senior executives ask whether the move targets supporters of Gama. Maharaj replies: “[This] is not about a witch-hunt, but [about] having discussions with [executive committee] members.”
He continues: “The executives have offered to leave. Three have already left. One said he will leave at the end of June. It is not fair to any member who spent 12 years [in the company] to be subject to a process that will make them redundant.
“In putting any team together at exco level what gives you a ticket to the dance is skills, ability, competency and compatibility.”
Those who agree to voluntary severance will receive more generous packages, he explains, than those who wait and risk retrenchment.
Transnet spokesperson John Dludlu said: “As a matter of principle, we cannot comment on the contents of your tapes, the authenticity of which is unknown.
Besides, we haven’t been given a full transcript thereof or copies of tapes in your possession. Nor do we know how they were generated.”
He said: “We are looking at structures within the company to make them more customer and operationally focused with clear accountability. As TFR is our largest division and has the greatest need for a turnaround of its operational performance, we are reviewing the structuring of its executive committee first.”
This review “might result in changes to individuals’ responsibilities”, Dludlu said. “We’ve begun talks with all, not certain, members of the TFR executive committee. These consultations are ongoing.”
Meanwhile, fallout continues from presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya’s announcement last week that the ministerial review of state-owned enterprises headed by Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would be shelved in favour of a review that a panel appointed by President Jacob Zuma would conduct.
This was seen as a slap in the face for Hogan, who has been under attack because her insistence on good governance is seen by some in the governing party as threatening ANC objectives.
In what appeared to be a face-saving exercise the presidency released a statement on Monday saying both reviews would continue. But the presidency has still not resolved the contradiction between this statement and Magwenya’s earlier one. Magwenya was in Canada and could not be contacted.