Ex-Transnet board member takes on Gordhan over 'racism' as case heads to court
Former Transnet board member Seth Radebe will on Monday head to court to challenge his dismissal by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, accusing him of racism.
Radebe is set to argue that his dismissal in May was motivated by racism, and that it is invalid and unconstitutional.
The racism dispute stems from the manner in which he says Gordhan removed him, while fellow board member, Arlana Kinley, who was appointed at the same time as Radebe in December 2017 - survived the axe.
Kinley, a non-executive director and member of the audit committee is white, and, according to Radebe, was never asked to make a representation as to why she should not be fired.
"The fact is that Minister Gordhan unfairly discriminated against the applicant on the ground of race and or social origin," Radebe's papers read.
But in his answering affidavit, which was referenced in Radebe's court papers, Gordhan said Kinley’s retention was aimed at ensuring continuity and had nothing to do with race.
Radebe’s case of unfair dismissal also hinges on allegations of corruption and impropriety around the acquisition of 1 064 locomotives for R54bn in 2014.
A report by law firm Werksmans, which was deemed inconclusive by the board, recommended that certain employees be suspended or face discipline.
Following the release of the report, Radebe claimed that he met with Gordhan in May and was accused of "failing to suspend certain employees" as recommended by the investigation, although the report did not name specific individuals.
However, in his answering affidavit, Gordhan stated that the implicated persons were Siyabonga Gama, who was then Transnet Freight Rail chief executive, former CEO Brian Molefe and Thamsanqa Jiyane, former chief procurement officer.
In his defence, Radebe goes on to say that "it would be irrational to suspend any employees from positions they no longer occupied" and that the allegations of impropriety took place before his appointment to the Transnet board.
Radebe is seeking reinstatement to the board, and is adamant that Kinley was also party to all the decisions of the board since their appointment.
"There should be a substantial and rational justification for the decision to retain one board member and remove another, where both are guilty of the same conduct," he said.
On May 24, Gordhan announced the appointment of several additional directors to the Transnet board, in a bid to strengthen governance and stem financial losses by the key state-owned firm.
The case will be heard in the North Gauteng High Court.
On Thursday, the Transnet board suspended two senior executives - Jiyane and Lindiwe Mdletshe, senior manager for strategic sourcing for Transnet Freight Rail.
* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER