Transnet has requested the assistance of the Special Investigations Unit to investigate corruption allegations against Transnet Ports Authority CEO Pepi Silinga. Additionally, an independent law firm has been appointed to investigate the reports, which primarily focus on the violation of procurement procedures within the state-owned enterprise.

By Staff Reporter

Pepi Silinga is alleged to have improperly appointed the Coega Development Corporation to oversee the installation of security fencing upgrades at three of the country’s major ports: Durban, Richards Bay, and Saldanha Bay. It is also alleged that he permitted the total costs for these upgrades to rise significantly from R76 million to a substantial R301 million.

In response to these allegations, Transnet has initiated comprehensive investigations into the allegations.

“Transnet has consequently appointed an independent law firm to undertake an in-depth investigation in this regard. The matter has also been referred to the SIU, who have acknowledged receipt of the referral, and will be proceeding with the investigation,” acting group chief executive Michelle Phillips said in a statement on Wednesday.

Transnet also stated that it was fully cooperating with the investigation procedures conducted by the SIU. This was in response to multiple allegations against Silinga, although there was no evidence to support these claims.

Phillips further stated that if significant evidence is found during the investigations, Transnet will quickly and decisively follow the company’s policies and the country’s legal framework to ensure that appropriate disciplinary actions are taken.

“Should prima facie evidence become available during these investigations, Transnet will not hesitate to invoke the relevant processes in line with the company policies, and laws of the country, and to take the necessary disciplinary action.”

Various South African business, labour, and transportation and logistics industry associations have been urging for the resignation of Silinga in response to the accusations.

Satawu Takes a Strong Stance

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has taken a strong stance, demanding the immediate suspension of Silinga.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the union stated that it has previously urged the management, including Board members, the CEO, and the Minister of Public Enterprises, to address allegations that Silinga appointed his friends in his office who did not meet the minimum qualifications for the top positions at the organisation.

“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 strongly believes that Mr Silinga has no interest in growing and rescuing Transnet, the entity is collapsing because of people like him who are only occupying those offices for their interests,” reads the statement.

The union expressed the belief that Silinga should be suspended to facilitate due process and prevent potential threats, intimidation, and tampering with evidence. Additionally, the organization questioned the continued presence of Silinga in the office, asserting that there was no exceptional reason for his continued tenure.

“Mr Pepi Silinga is an employee of Transnet, he must then be treated as such, the state-owned entity has suspended many executives who are accused of similar offences, pending these allegations.

“We therefore of the opinion that Mr Silinga must be on suspension to allow the process to take its course and to avoid threats, intimidation and tampering with evidence. There is absolutely nothing special about him, why is he still in the office?”

The union expressed appreciation to Transnet for initiating an investigation into the allegations against Silinga; however, it asserted that this action was insufficient. The union maintains that if the company is genuinely committed to combating corruption, it must promptly demonstrate this commitment to the public.

“We acknowledge the entity for taking actions against one of their CEOs however, it is not enough. If the entity is serious about fighting corruption, it must prove it to the people of this country now. The organisations will make a follow-up and request an urgent meeting with the management to take this further.”

The Democratic Alliance (DA) also called for Silinga to be placed on precautionary suspension due to the seriousness of the allegations and the large amount of money involved. Despite reports of an internal investigation by Transnet, the DA doubts that a fair and thorough investigation can be conducted while Silinga remains in office.

“Although reports indicate that Transnet has instituted an internal investigation to probe these allegations, the DA is not convinced that an internal investigation into the allegations levelled against Silinga can be conducted in a fair, partial and thorough manner whilst Silinga is still in office.

“The DA, therefore, calls on Transnet to immediately place Silinga on precautionary suspension pending the finalisation of any investigation into the allegations of corruption levelled against him.

“If indeed the government is serious about completely turning the fortunes of Transnet around and combatting corruption and malfeasance at our embattled SOEs, then President Ramaphosa will not hesitate to sign and issue a proclamation authorising the SIU to launch an investigation into these serious corruption-related allegations.”

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