Zondo astounded Transnet board let Gama off the hook on paying high court cost order

Transnet group chief executive officer Siyabonga Gama. Picture: Facebook

Commission chair says legal costs could have been between R800 000 and R1 million and asks why it was decided that parastatal would pay 75% of CEO’s costs.

The chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday expressed his astonishment that the Transnet board chaired by Mafika Mkwanazi let the former group chief executive officer (CEO) of the state-owned enterprise, Siyabonga Gama, off the hook on paying a high court cost order amounting to almost R426 000.

During Mkwanazi’s testimony on Monday, Zondo said in his almost 24 years on the bench, he has never encountered a situation like this.

The commission heard that Gama had launched an application to interdict disciplinary proceedings against him which failed after the board that preceded Mkwanazi’s board opposed it.

A high court judge ordered Gama to pay costs to Transnet and some of the directors he had included in his application, the commission heard.

Gama applied for leave to appeal that decision, however, that was refused, the commission heard.

Eventually, Gama went through the disciplinary proceedings and was found guilty and dismissed, which prompted him to approach the bargaining council, the commission heard.

The commission heard that when Gama and Transnet entered into negotiations on a settlement agreement, the former CEO accepted guilt of three acts of misconduct but in the settlement offer, Gama was told that he did not have to pay the high court cost order, which had nothing to do with the process at the bargaining council.

“Why did you interfere with a cost order made by a judge in a separate litigation Gama had lost?” Zondo asked Mkwanazi to explain.

Zondo pointed out that the costs order could have amounted to between R800 000 and R1 million in total.

The commission’s chair was also astonished that Mkwanazi’s board also decided that it would pay 75% of Gama’s legal costs, asking Mkwanazi how he could “explain that” and how was that in the interest of Transnet.

Mkwanazi said at the time consideration was made of the value Gama would add to the parastatal when he returned to the entity as group chief executive officer.

Zondo asked what value would Gama add to Transnet in light of evidence heard at the commission that Gama had signed documents without reading them, subsequently costing the entity millions, and had defied the board that preceded the one chaired by Mkwanazi.

Mkwanazi conceded that in retrospect Gama was not the best individual for the job, adding that he, too, was perplexed by the additional payments Transnet made to the former CEO.

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