Transnet official accused of misconduct sues for R1.1m

Harry Lekalakala was an executive manager for legal affairs at Transnet Freight Rail. (Nadine Hutton, Bloomberg)

Harry Lekalakala was an executive manager for legal affairs at Transnet Freight Rail. (Nadine Hutton, Bloomberg)

A senior Transnet executive, who claims he was constructively dismissed, is demanding R1.1-million from the parastatal, two senior Transnet sources have confirmed.

Harry Lekalakala, an executive manager for legal affairs at Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), resigned in May last year after he was served with a precautionary suspension over allegations of corruption and gross misconduct.

A confidential report prepared by TFR’s fraud risk management division, which is in the Mail & Guardian‘s possession, accuses him of benefiting financially from Papanyana Development, a company that was doing business with TFR.

The report reveals email exchanges between Lekalakala and Papanyana, in which payments for him from Papanyana and procurement opportunities from TFR are discussed. In one email, a Papanyana employee suggests that Lekalakala be compensated for helping the company get work from TFR.

According to the report, Lekalakala was offered R50 000 by Papanyana for consultation fees and finance charges.

“It is further unethical for Mr Lekalakala to demand and agree to payment of R50 000 from Papanyana to perform work for his employer, TFR,” the report said.

“It is further evident from emails exchanged between Mr Lekalakala and others that they had planned to set up a consortium to partner with a supplier on a Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa] opportunity and in the long term pursue TE [Transnet Engineering] and TFR on similar opportunities.

“This would be in breach of Transnet’s procurement policy as Transnet do [sic] not do business with its employees,” the report reads.

Lekalakala has also been accused of conducting a private legal practice and other businesses for remuneration without prior written consent from Transnet’s group executive Brian Molefe, or his delegated authority.

He is also accused of abusing company resources to further his private business interests in Thebe Ya Molao, TYM Legal Consultant, Lekalakala Family Trust, Big Creek Trading 74 and his property business. In a memorandum sent to Transnet’s group executive for human resources, Nonkululeko Sishe, TFR chief executive Siyabonga Gama describes Lekalakala’s conduct as a serious breach of Transnet policy.

“During the investigation into the activities of the said firm [Papanyana], it has also transpired that Mr Lekalakala advanced a certain amount of money [R173 000] to a company called Papanyana Development to tender for TFR work, and also shared confidential information with such company.
Mr Lekalakala was to be paid interest on the said amount plus a consultation fee of R50 000. In addition, Mr Lekalakala used company resources to advance his personal interest in various undeclared business ventures he was involved in,” said Gama.

The TFR spokesperson, Sandile Simelane, confirmed this week that Lekalakala was demanding compensation from the TFR for constructive dismissal, but he refused to disclose other details. He added that Transnet reserved the right to oppose any arbitration by its employees.

The M&G approached Lekalakala and Papanyana for comment but neither had responded at the time of the newspaper going to print.

ML

ML

Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award. Read more from ML

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