/ 30 May 2023

Gordhan: Search on for new director general for public enterprises

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said an advertisement for a new director general for his department would soon be going live after Kgathatso Tlhakudi was dismissed from his duties on 26 May. 

“We couldn’t do anything until the disciplinary process was over. We have to now go through a process of advertising. We’ll be looking at those processes internally,” Gordhan said in a presentation to parliament’s standing committee on public accounts.

Tlhakudi, who Gordhan suspended last year, was found guilty of gross misconduct by exceeding his legal authority and unlawful recruitment that prejudiced qualified candidates.

Gordhan said the issue had come to light after the Public Service Commission wrote to him about a complaint from a candidate who was unhappy with the process she had gone through. 

The minister said since director generals were formally appointed by the president and not a minister, the report on Tlhakudi had been submitted to the presidency, which elected Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to manage the matter.

Parliament said in April that Gordhan would be called to respond to claims by the department’s Tlhakudi, of impropriety in the SAA/Takatso Aviation deal. This was after Tlhakudi claimed in a protected disclosure and in a letter to parliamentary speaker Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula that the national carrier had been undervalued by R7 billion as part of its takeover by the Takatso consortium.

“As far as we are concerned there is a fabrication of a lot of things around SAA and we rebutted them many times,” Gordhan said in Tuesday’s presentation.

“And now we hear the SIU [Special Investigating Unit] is looking into this matter as well. There was the labour court, the high court was also involved, and now the bargaining council. We are actively trying to rebut the lies that have been spread.”

Tlhakudi has said he will appeal his suspension and dismissal and will be at the bargaining council on 8 June for arbitration. 

A day before his dismissal, the public enterprises department issued a statement that, rather than allow for due process, Tlhakudi “has instead opted to impugn the reputation of the department, its staff and by extension its executive political authority, Mr Pravin Gordhan, the minister of public enterprises”.

“Minister Gordhan refutes the baseless claims and allegations by Mr Tlhakudi that he interfered and handpicked the Takatso consortium as the preferred bidder to purchase the 51% shareholding in South African Airways.”

The department said since his suspension Tlhakudi had gone on the offensive to portray himself as a victim who opposed the SAA-Takatso transaction, despite him having been “a key driver and proponent of the SAA-Takatso transaction”.

In Tuesday’s presentation, the public enterprises department confirmed to MPs that after the SAA takeover deal was completed, Takatso would have 51% shareholding as the majority shareholder with the government owning 49%.

The Competition Commission recently recommended that the Competition Tribunal approve the proposed merger between Takatso Aviation and SAA subject to divestiture and employment conditions.