Former Transnet chief exec Siyabonga Gama, Gupta associate Eric Wood arrested

Former Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama and four others have been arrested on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering.

On Friday, the Investigating Directorate announced that the Hawks had arrested five former Transnet executives at 7am. The arrest took place at the Brackendowns police station in Alberton. 

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said in the state capture report that Gama was “centrally involved in key transactions that favoured the Gupta enterprise”, including Transnet’s controversial procurement of locomotives between 2011 and 2014. 

Gama — as well as Regiments founding partner Eric Wood, former acting Transnet chief financial officer Garry Pita, former Transnet group treasurer Phetelo Ramosebudi and Trillian Asset Management director Daniel Roy — will appear before the Palm Ridge magistrate’s court on Friday morning.

The second instalment of the state capture report, handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa by Zondo in February, recommended the criminal prosecution of Gama and others for their part in alleged corruption at Transnet. 

According to the report, Transnet’s capture began after the resignation of Maria Ramos as its group chief executive in 2009. 

Thereafter, it noted, then president Jacob Zuma thwarted the appointment of a new chief executive by then public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan. This was because Zuma allegedly favoured Gama, who at the time was facing serious charges of misconduct in his capacity as chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail.

In 2010 Zuma appointed Malusi Gigaba — “an admitted associate of the Gupta enterprise” — as Hogan’s replacement. Gigaba immediately went to work reconstituting the Transnet board and initiated the process that led to Brian Molefe’s appointment as its chief executive. 

One week after Molefe was appointed, Gama was reinstated at Transnet Freight Rail. 

When Molefe was seconded to Eskom in April 2015, Gama was appointed as acting Transnet group chief executive. He was dismissed three years later in the wake of allegations of serious violations of his financial procurement and fiduciary responsibilities.

According to Zondo’s report, Gama had ties with the Guptas through the family’s associate, Salim Essa, and enjoyed political support from Gigaba and Zuma. Shortly before Gama was promoted to the helm of Transnet, the report noted, Gama decided to donate R500 000 towards the Jacob G Zuma Foundation on Transnet’s behalf.

Witnesses at the Zondo commission testified that Gama — as well as Molefe, Gigaba, Pita and Transnet’s former chief financial officer, Anoj Singh — received bribes from the Gupta enterprise.

One of the alleged bribes received by Gama was R1-million in cash, which was given to him in a suitcase. Gama denied this.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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