The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called on the Public Enterprises Minister to remove Transnet’s CEO Portia Derby, accusing her of sabotaging businesses through lack of service delivery.
In a letter dated 12 September and signed by Palesa Phili, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the business community of eThekwini said it had reached a point where it could "no longer tolerate" Derby's behaviour which, it said, is "clearly geared towards sabotaging businesses, through the lack of service delivery with the current port infrastructure".
The chamber said that it believed Derby, as well as the head of Transnet Freight Rail, Sizakele Mzimela, and Transnet National Ports Authority CEO, Pepi Silinga, did not have the best interests of the business community at heart.
Transnet’s executive team "have proven time and time again that they are incompetent … Businesses are collapsing and losing revenue daily … we cannot allow this to continue any longer", the letter said.
The chamber's plea comes on top of calls from the Minerals Council South Africa for the removal of Derby and Mzimela in a letter sent to the former Transnet board chairperson in December last year.
Earlier this month, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan tasked the new Transnet board with conducting a sweeping review of the organisation, including a thorough review of the executive management and whether the right people with the right skills are in place. He further asked the board to identify the root causes of the inability of management and staff to meet performance targets.
In its letter to Gordhan, the Durban Chamber said it had written to Derby, firstly to express concern over her statements made at a Bloomberg event in August – where she commented on potential job losses in the trucking sector should Transnet’s railing service improve. The chamber said it had further raised other critical issues relating to the ports and to the parastatal’s service delivery, and had requested a meeting with Derby.
In the letter to Gordhan, the chamber said it believed there needed to be an in-depth investigation into TPNA’s recruitment and procurement processes.
The chamber further lamented the lack of commitment from Transnet to improve rail performance.
"While there are external factors contributing to the rail networking not functioning, we have not seen interventions that identifies and reviews internal efficiencies," the chamber said. "Furthermore, there is a lack of stakeholder engagement by TFR. This is resulting in business uncertainty."
In a written statement issued on Friday, Transnet said it had been made aware of the letter and Derby had met with the mayor of eThekwini, and the CEO of the Durban Chamber on the sidelines of another engagement in Durban that morning.
"The parties have agreed to collaborate on finding solutions to the pressing challenges. A meeting will be held as a matter of urgency to discuss the critical issues which cause frustration to the members of the chamber," Transnet said, adding that a joint statement will be issued by the parties after the meeting to detail the interventions to be implemented by Transnet.