Business Maverick

CORRUPTION PROBE

Another Transnet executive falls — this time, the head of ports infrastructure

Another Transnet  executive falls — this time, the head of ports infrastructure
Transnet National Ports Authority CEO Pepi Silinga has taken leave amid a corruption and mismanagement probe. (Photo: Supplied)

Pepi Silinga, the CEO of Transnet National Ports Authority, has taken leave of absence while allegations against him of corruption and mismanagement are investigated.

Leadership problems continue to stalk Transnet.

This time, the CEO of the Transnet division responsible for improving the infrastructure of ports across South Africa, Pepi Silinga, has taken leave of absence while a probe into allegations against him of corruption and mismanagement is ongoing.

Transnet has shared little information about the nature of the allegations Silinga faces, which are being investigated by an independent law firm that has been appointed by the state-owned transport group.

In a short statement, Transnet said it had received “a number of allegations regarding activities” at Transnet National Ports Authority, headed by Silinga, without saying he is implicated in wrongdoing.

Transnet added that Silinga had offered to take leave of absence to allow the investigation to proceed “without the perception of interference and to ensure that the integrity of the process is not compromised”.

The state-owned enterprise has accepted Silinga’s offer to step aside, and he will be replaced on an acting basis by Phyllis Difeto, a ports managing executive, while the law firm carries out its investigation.

The trade union movement has more insight into the allegations that Silinga faces. The South African Trade and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), one of the trade unions recognised at Transnet, has long called for Silinga to be suspended with immediate effect, saying he faces “serious allegations of corruption and mismanagement” regarding contracts issued by Transnet National Ports Authority.

Satawu said Silinga allegedly awarded a R300-million security fencing tender to a former employer — a process the trade union believes was marred by irregularities.

“The union has previously called on the management several times, including board members, the CEO and the minister of public enterprises, to take actions against Mr Silinga following allegations that he appointed his close allies in his office who did not even meet the minimum requirements for those top positions at the entity,” Satawu said.

The union sent a complaint to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) about the allegations against Silinga. The SIU is already investigating a raft of corruption and impropriety allegations relating to Transnet’s affairs. Most of the allegations stem from the State Capture period when Transnet was a key site of theft and looting through improperly awarded tenders.

Daily Maverick approached the SIU for comment about whether it had received the complaint from Satawu, but the SIU has yet to respond.

Silinga’s career

Silinga, who has an engineering and management background, has a 30-year career in the public sector.

He was appointed as the CEO of Transnet National Ports Authority in 2020. Before joining the ports authority, he served as the CEO of the Coega Development Corporation, where he led the development and management of the Coega Special Economic Zone. He had previously served on the boards of national and provincial public entities.

At Transnet, Silinga has had a testy relationship with the private sector. As the CEO of Transnet National Ports Authority, he was responsible for the functioning of the national port system (in a landlord capacity), providing port infrastructure and marine services at the eight commercial seaports in South Africa.

In September 2023, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for Transnet executives to be fired for failing to turn around the state-owned company’s logistics operations, mainly the freight rail network and ports.

The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents more than 2,000 small, medium and large businesses, called on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to fire Transnet executives Portia Derby (group CEO), Sizakele Mzimela (head of freight rail) and Silinga. Derby and Mzimela resigned while Silinga remained in his position.

Read more in Daily Maverick:

The chamber said businesses were collapsing and losing revenue daily because of the port challenges, adding that Transnet needed a suitable and accountable executive team.

Transnet’s container ports (mainly Durban and Cape Town) are among the world’s worst, in the bottom 10 of the 348 ranked in the World Bank’s latest Container Port Performance Index. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Garth Kruger says:

    “who has an engineering and management background,”

    Could you be a little more specific perhaps? Anything from the LSE perhaps?

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “Transnet’s container ports (mainly Durban and Cape Town) are among the world’s worst, in the bottom 10 of the 348 ranked”

    Another ANC success story.

    • Ben Harper says:

      The highest container turnaround rate ever achieved was in the 90’s in Cape Town when COSATU workers went on strike and they brought in temp workers, the normal rate was 8 to 10 containers per hour the temp workers were turning 38 containers per hour

    • David McCormick says:

      Unfortunately Radical Economic Transformation has been attained – to the detriment of all South Africans

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      I was intrigued by this line, so I took a closer look, and the list is quite illuminating.

      Top 15 (2022 data):
      Yangshan (Shaoxing, China), Salalah (Oman), Khalifa Port (UAE), Tanger-Med (Morocco), Cartagena (Colombia), Tanjung Pelepas (Johor, Malaysia), Ningbo (China), Hamad Port (Qatar), Guangzhou (China), Port Said (Eqypt), Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Cai Mep (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) , Shekou Port & Mawan Port (Shenzhen, China), Yokohama (Japan)

      Bottom 15 (2022 data):
      Rijeka (Croatia), Houston (Texas, USA), Los Angeles (California, USA), Luanda (Angola), Ngqura (Coega, South Africa), Trieste (Italy), Charleston (South Carolina, USA), Durban (South Africa), Prince Rupert (British Columbia, Canada), Oakland (California, USA), Cape Town (South Africa), Koper (Slovenia), Long Beach (California, USA), Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Savannah (Georgia, USA)

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Innocent until proven guilty?
    Nope, the ANC has turned that on its head.
    Inept until proven corrupt.

  • Just Me says:

    Unless there are very specific KPI’s (for the Executive and the Board members alike), like ROI, successful freight and passenger train trip completions, successful freight handling at ports, they can have ANC cadre after ANC cadre (as execs and board) and nothing will change.

    The current Transnet rot is 30 years in the making and more colour on boards and execs will not help.

    The answer is back to basics and stamping out corruption.

    • Tee Mo says:

      This! I can guarantee you that we would have working ports and far fewer outages in terms of water and power if managers from middle to senior to executive were penalized for every delay and every outage. They seem to just throw up their hands, point fingers, and go to lunch.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    Ho hum. Yet another corrupt and incompetent ANC appointment. While in law it’s always good to believe in the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, with anyone in the current government I’m happy to accept that the opposite is true. In 99% of cases, it’s guilty, guilty, and guilty, and we should shoot first and ask questions later.

  • moditi boale says:

    Replaced by another black guy or his buddy – transnet is playing circus /black mampatile

  • Richard Blake says:

    Another ANC cadre deployed to loot, and enrich friends, family, and the connected.

  • Soil Merchant says:

    If you want to create jobs you break the infrastructure that only takes a few to run i.e. the rail system, and employ 1000’s of drivers to make up for the deficit in supply created.

    • Ben Harper says:

      That was exactly the anc’s strategy when they took power, the immediately discarded rail freight and forced the move to road freight, that way the could monopolies and capture road freight companies and loot the rail sector

  • Clifton Coetzee says:

    There are no Good men left in the ANC. Ramaphosa’s ‘New Dawn’ is an eclipse of corruption.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    …”Transnet’s container ports (mainly Durban and Cape Town) are among the world’s worst, in the bottom 10 of the 348 ranked in the World Bank’s latest Container Port Performance Index”…

    As someone who builds for a living I would like to expand on that. South African labour is THE WORST in the world. I dont know what it is, but it is a standing joke amongst the development and building community. If I hire labour from any other SA community or from across the borders we can move at a pace comparable with other countries. If you have workers from one specific group of tribes you LITERALLY (like really really REALLY) need to hire 4 people to do the job of 1 person… 3 talk and watch and point… 1 works.. then they rotate. This is no joke… this is reality. This is also not true of workers from the rest of Africa.. it’s just the South Africans and from a specific community.
    Maybe we just have a super super lazy group of people here who also kinda like stealing?

    • Paul Davis says:

      Business margins are still good allowing the likes of Matthew Quinton to employ 4 people so that three can watch and then rotate. We need to get to a point where the margins are no longer there and only one person, who now values a job, is employed without the support from 3 unproductive onlookers.

      The neighbouring countries “one man for the job” is because their countries have all hit the skids already and they value the job like gold! SA is still 20 years from hitting the bottom so bury your frustrations and watch how the ruling parties cultural acumen propels us to join the other 53 Banana Republics on the African continent!

    • Ben Harper says:

      Culture of entitlement unfortunately

      • Matthew Quinton says:

        So wrong. Our margins are paper thin. We would all much rather employ skilled hard working labor that can support higher salaries and get the job done efficiently and with better income for all involved. Nope. The unskilled and unmotivated labor force is a nightmare to deal with. We would all LOVE to have access to skilled motivated labor and are prevented from using a lot of more efficient and greener building methodology because of this.

        • Ben Harper says:

          That was my point Matthew, the labour force has a culture of entitlement, they firmly believe they are entitled to jobs but don’t believe they actually have to work once they have it. Just look at the checkout staff at any supermarket in SA

          • Matthew Quinton says:

            Ah… my apologies.. then yes, I 100% agree with you. Our labor force has been RUINED by the BS that the ANC has been pumping into their minds for the past 30 years… that somehow “the oppressors” never worked for what they had and once voted in… everyone would feast and party and never work again. I must however stress that this is by no means an insurmountable problem, it can be fixed, but it will sadly take at least a generation and during those 15-20 years, the local jobs will still be given to the many foreigners who actually work. There is a scary story that I tell about labour and it’s actually true!!! When we collect labourers from roadside, my site manager has a trick to weeding out the locals.. he shouts “who needs a job?” and a bunch of men run to the bakkie… when they are running he shouts “and who wants to work hard?”… EVERY time.. .the locals slow down to a walk or even turn around.. and the bakkie gets filled up with foreign workers… tells you everything really!!!!

  • Seretse Moche says:

    Sad

  • Sekhohliwe Lamola says:

    It is bordering on absurdity to talk about growing economy and creating employment potential while core infrastructures and logistics critical for export are in disarray. To achieve high growth efficiencies, accountability and transparency, amongst other aspect, are prerequisite. As things stand we seem to have fundamentals wrong and state-owned agencies burdened with incompetencies and simple criminal thuggery, all of which are inexcusable.

  • Terril Scott says:

    Would someone please explain to me how the act of resigning absolves one of responsibility for one’s crimes or misdemeanors?

    • J dW says:

      If you don’t resign, you will probably face a disciplinary process and be fired. When you resign, hopefully after a long suspension and on full pay then all you have to “worry” about is the criminal justice system doing its job. Because you still have a clean employment record and are unlikely to get a criminal record, you are ready to be “deployed” to the next job. Rinse and repeat.

    • John Smythe says:

      Only they know, Terril. It’s a weird logic that’ taught to cadres. And then 6 months later they’re welcomed back into the bosom of the corrupt SOE leadership with dancing and whooping.

  • Marilyn Tromp says:

    Why do these executives go on “leave of absence” and “special leave” , sometimes for a number of years, and still get paid their salary ? They’re only too happy to do so, as they do even less work while raking in their big salaries.
    Rather suspend them without pay while they’re being investigated, and in the unlikely event that they are proved to be corrupt-free, pay them.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    The collapse of Transnet and Eskom, and the absolute refusal of thr responsible ministers to address these issues should be treated as treason. Every single South African is being pushed further into debt and poverty by these scumbags who know only how to loot and play internal empire building within the ruling looting party. Utter trash who must be jailed and for a long time. Mantashe gets three strikes (and out for life) for ruining Eskom, refusing to allow renewables into the system properly and killing new developments in the mining industry. Probably the most evil man in South Africa today.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    So in the last few months, Head of Ports, Head of Rail, Financial Director and overall CEO all fired or suspended… that’s everyone then, yes??
    And who made the appointments in the first place… Ah, ANC mistakes perhaps!

  • Random Comment says:

    Another victory for cadre deployment and another blow to the long-suffering people of South Africa.

    There are no moral, financial or political justifications remaining for appointing people to key roles based solely on their loyalty to a political party (not that there ever was).

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    I do not know much about Pepi. But the government’s stated policy to only appoint people from African descent in all positions, are starting to bite them. This kind of thing happens when some people think they have the God given right to be appointed.

    Strange that there a lot less issues and scandals when, according to the colonial English, the dumb and uneducatable Boete ran the Railwas & Harbours. Strange thing – history.

    • John Smythe says:

      Except that it’s taken the ANC cadre network comprised virtually 100% of their own 30 years to not learn a thing about getting anything functioning efficiently.

  • montebe montebe says:

    At Ngqura 338, Durban 341 and Cape Town 344 out of 348, we’re in good company – Le Havre 319, Hamburg 328, Houston 335, LA 336, Trieste 339 and Vancouver 347.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Instead of looking which other ports are badly run and saying “oh well, look at the company we keep, not so bad”, why not look at the best performing ports and see what they’re doing right that we aren’t?

      It’s the same rubbish as always trying to find a country with a worse murder, rape, assault, fraud or other criminal problem and saying “well, you see, we’re not the worst.” Bottom line is that in most measurable indicators we’re closer to the bottom of the pile than the top. 30 years of ANC misrule. No more excuses.

    • John Smythe says:

      Lol!

  • Brad John says:

    Is there ANYTHING these people can do right? They’re all either incompetent, corrupt or both.

  • Mike vd Walt says:

    Is this a step-aside on full pay?

  • Karan Thakor says:

    Same book, same chapter, same Author (ANC)

  • Dermot Quinn says:

    Nice they find another internal hire whose experience is from the chop at the top… expecting a quick turnaround then.

  • Bryan Arundel says:

    Why does it take so long for the minister responsible for Transnet to take action?
    Does anyone in the government have a long term plan, or any plan for that matter, for the portfolio for which they are responsible?
    One would think there would be quarterly reviews of all state run enterprises so that catastrophes like this could be averted. Unfortunately the ministers are too busy looking after their self interests to both with such mundane matters.
    Once again it is the tax payer who has to pay the price for such disasters with the infusion of billion of rands.

  • As long as the current ruling party holds the key to the money box in South Africa the value of the Constitution does not benefit the larger population.

  • Gordon Pascoe says:

    It would be interesting to hear what Gordhan has to say about this after his recent praise for the appointed boards of these institutions?

  • Arno Stijlen says:

    That explains the current mismanagment and mess at South African ports. Corrupt and incompetent leader.

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