SOUTH AFRICA – The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has demanded the removal of Transnet National Ports Authority CEO Pepi Silinga, alleging irregularities in awarding a port fencing upgrade tender worth R300 million (USD 15.97 million) to close associates.

The tender, initially valued at R80 million (USD 1.6 million), has drawn scrutiny, prompting an independent probe by Transnet.

Transnet’s Acting CEO, Michelle Phillips, confirmed the investigation and referred corruption allegations against Silinga to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Satawu argues that Silinga’s continued presence may compromise the investigation. The call for his suspension is grounded in concerns that he might tamper with evidence.

Amanda Tshemese, a Satawu spokesperson, emphasized the severity of the allegations, stating, “Silinga is facing serious allegations of corruption, and he must be suspended to allow the entity to conduct its investigations.”

The controversy centers on Silinga’s alleged irregular appointment of Coega Development Corporation, a company he had previously worked for, as the implementing partner for a fencing contract at ports in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, and Saldanha Bay. The contract’s cost escalated from R80 million to R300 million, triggering suspicions.

In response, Phillips stated, “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.”

While Transnet confirmed receiving multiple allegations against Silinga, it stressed that no evidence had substantiated the accusations. Tshemese contended, “He hired his close friends in that office, and he is likely to tamper with the evidence.”

Transnet assured that if prima facie evidence emerged during the investigations, it would take disciplinary action in line with company policies and the laws of the country. The board is focused on implementing a recovery plan to enhance operations and financial stability.

Transnet has faced financial challenges, with a revenue drop from R72.9 billion (USD 3.88 billion) in 2017 to R68.9 billion (USD 3.67 million) in the 2022/2023 fiscal year. Operating expenses increased from R40.4 billion (USD 2.15 million) to R45.9 billion (USD 2.44 million) over the same period. Last year, South Africa approved a R47 billion bailout to address financial issues and corruption concerns at Transnet.

In a related development, the Cape Town Container Terminal (CTCT) and Multipurpose Terminal (MPT) are diverting vessels to Port Elizabeth to alleviate pressure on the struggling container terminal at the Port of Cape Town.

The move aims to address challenges faced by South Africa’s fruit sector due to delays in container terminal operations.

The South African Table Grape Grower organization (Sati) is actively engaging with Transnet and government stakeholders to mitigate the impact on the current grape season.

Sati, in collaboration with Agbiz and Fruit South Africa, is working to expedite interventions to address challenges and ensure smoother operations for the fruit sector.

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