Party loyalists in line for top Transnet job

Lucky Montana, the group chief executive of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), and former Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) boss Siyabonga Gama have emerged as the front runners for the post of chief executive of Transnet.

The Mail & Guardian understands that there has been strong lobbying by some leaders in the ANC, Cosatu and ANC Youth League for the appointment of Montana or Gama as the new Transnet boss.

This comes as new Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba announced the appointment of the new Transnet board, chaired by Mafika Mkhwanazi.

Mkhwanazi, a close ally of ANC policy head and Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, is a former Transnet chief executive. Mkhwanazi, Gama and Montana served under Radebe while he was public enterprises minister.

Gama was dismissed as TFR boss earlier this year following a disciplinary hearing in which it was found that there had been an irretrievable breakdown of trust between him and the Transnet board.

This followed accusations that he awarded a tender to a company associated with Siphiwe Nyanda, former communications minister and now Parliamentary adviser to President Jacob Zuma, without the necessary approval.

However, some in the ANC believe Gama was roughly treated by ­Transnet management under the leadership of acting chief executive Chris Wells and former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan.

Gama’s bid to return
Wells announced his resignation from Transnet soon after Zuma axed Hogan from his Cabinet last month.

Gama is understood to be referring his dismissal to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

According to sources in Transnet, Gama’s bid to return to there, as chief executive or in his old job as head of TFR, could have the support of a number of current board members.

Montana, who has more than 10 years’ experience in the transport and rail industry, is also seen by some in the ruling alliance as a suitable candidate for Transnet’s top job.

A senior leader of Cosatu’s transport union, Satawu, who asked not to be named, said this week the union had written to Gigaba asking him to consider Montana as a possible candidate for Transnet chief executive.

“Montana is the favourite candidate in a number of quarters. He enjoys the support of Cosatu and the ANC. We took his CV to Hogan and have resubmitted his name again to Gigaba,” said the Satawu leader.

‘Historical under-­performance of rail passenger services’
Montana, who was Radebe’s political adviser, was mandated by government to consolidate under one umbrella passenger rail entities, including the South African Rail Commuter Corporation, Metrorail, Intersite Property Management Services, Shosholoza Meyl and Autopax, to form Prasa.

The aim was to address the historical under-­performance of rail passenger services and under-investment in the sector. The name of former PIC boss Brian Molefe has also been suggested as a potential candidate for the Transnet job, but some in the ANC say his association with former president Thabo Mbeki’s regime could count against him.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu said the ANC would not interfere in the identification of candidates. However, he expected Gigaba, who is also an ANC national executive committee member, to consult relevant party structures.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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