Transnet Group CEO Portia Derby has bowed down to mounting pressure from various quarters and tendered her resignation from the beleaguered state-owned ports and rail conglomerate.
She is set to depart at the close of October.
Simultaneously, the company’s second-highest-ranking executive, Group Chief Financial Officer (GCFO) Nonkululeko Dlamini, also exited the company on Friday, following her apparent resignation at the outset of September.
The announcement of their departures was made by Transnet in a Sens statement on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) shortly after 5 pm on Friday.
“Dlamini, who joined Transnet in July 2020, will conclude her service on September 29, 2023, after serving her notice period starting on September 1, 2023,” the group stated.
Derby and Dlamini’s resignations come in the wake of heightened pressure and calls for their departure from organized business bodies, including the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Minerals Council of South Africa, owing to the deteriorating operational and financial performance of the group.
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South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), also later called for Derby’s resignation on similar grounds.
Portia Derby assumed the role of Transnet group CEO just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020. She took the helm at a time when Transnet was grappling with the issues of state capture and corruption linked to its former executives.
“The Transnet board of directors extends its gratitude to both executive directors for their contributions to the company and wishes them every success in their future endeavors,” noted the board in a succinct Sens announcement.
“On behalf of the board, I want to take this opportunity to convey to Portia and Nonkululeko our best wishes and to express our gratitude for their dedication, selflessness, and hard work in serving the company during this critical juncture in its history,” said Transnet board chairperson Andile Sangqu in a media statement.
“Derby joined Transnet on February 1, 2020, and has steered the company through an extremely challenging period, following the cancellation of the 1064 locomotive contract, which continues to pose a significant constraint for Transnet to this day,” the group underscored in its statement.
“Moreover, the tenure of the current executives was marked by the global Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent cyberattacks on the ICT system, KwaZulu-Natal floods, and a strike toward the end of 2022, all of which had adverse repercussions on Transnet,” it added.
The group specifically highlighted the substantial capital outlay required to restore service to the vital container corridor between Johannesburg and Durban after the floods.
“Derby has been instrumental in instituting remedial governance measures and stabilizing the company in the aftermath of the years of state capture.”
“During her tenure, she collaborated with the Transnet team to introduce a private partner for Transnet Port Terminals in the container terminal sector, a pioneering move. This initiative, along with collaboration with key stakeholders to introduce reforms in line with government policy, aims to rejuvenate the organization, particularly restructuring the rail sector and fostering growth in the freight logistics system,” it further noted.
Transnet disclosed that its board has appointed Michelle Phillips, the current Chief Executive of Transnet Pipelines, as the acting Group CEO effective from November 1, 2023, while the recruitment process for a permanent CEO is in progress.
Additionally, Hlengiwe Makhathini has been designated as interim group CFO.
“Both candidates were considered and recommended by the board as suitable to assume these respective roles on an interim basis. Derby and Dlamini will be available to facilitate the necessary transition processes as required,” Transnet emphasized.