Ex-Transnet board chair Mkhwanazi willing to pay back the money

Mafika Mkhwanazi concluded his testimony at the commission on Monday largely agreeing that decisions the board made were irrational.

A screenshot of former Transnet board chair Mafika Mkhwanazi at the state capture commission on Friday 16 October 2020. Picture: SABC Digital News/Youtube

JOHANNESBURG - Former Transnet board chairperson Mafika Mkhwanazi on Monday said he would not oppose a recommendation by the state capture commission of inquiry that he and his board members repay the R17 million that they handed over to Siyabonga Gama.

Mkhwanazi concluded his testimony at the commission largely agreeing that decisions the board made were irrational.

Mkhwanazi admits sabotaging legal processes to ensure Gama returned as Transnet CEO

He denied, however, that former Cabinet Minister Malusi Gigaba had instructed him to bring back Gama; instead, he told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that Gigaba only wanted Gama’s dismissal reviewed.

Mkhwanazi has a glowing profile. He is educated in applied mathematics and he is experienced in chairing boards of state-owned and private companies in South Africa and the continent.

Yet he repeatedly said he did not know why decisions were made and did not even know that 75% of legal costs for Gama would amount to R4 million.

Evidence leader advocate Anton Myburgh said: “I see you are a little stunned.”

“I am because of my interpretation of the so-called legal costs, maybe I don’t understand, I am stunned, yes,” Mkhwanazi said in response.

“But you were the negotiator,” Myburgh argued.

“At the time, this detail was not available to me,” Mkhwanazi said.

Zondo wanted the former Transnet board chairperson to pay back the money.

“Would you say there would be anything unfair if, in the end, the commission were to recommend to the president that steps should be taken to recover from members of the board who supported this settlement this money that, you and I agree, should not have been paid to Mr Gama?” He asked.

“Chairman I would not be opposed to that,” Mkhwanazi said in response.

Gama received R13 million in back pay and benefits and R4 million in legal costs even though he had admitted guilt for misconduct and the High Court had ordered him to pay Transnet’s costs.


At the same time, the commission has heard startling and sometimes contradictory testimony from Mkhwanazi.

The former board chair admitted to carrying out instructions from someone who was not even in office yet and agreed to a settlement for Gama only to be stunned by the amount that was paid nine years down the line.

He also admitted to reinstating Gama after he defied board resolutions and signing procurement documents worth millions, which he claimed he had not read.

“The facts show that you and your board acted so irrationally that the only reasonable explanation is that you must have been carrying out an instruction from the minister [Gigaba] to reinstate Mr Gama,” Myburgh said.

Mkhwanazi said in response: “It was not an instruction to reinstate, it was an instruction to review.”

He conceded he should have told the minister that an independent disciplinary process was under way and should not be interfered with, yet he did not.

“By your decision, you said in effect this CEO defied board instructions, but ‘we want him back and we will pay him to full back pay’, it’s inexplicable,” Zondo said.

“In hindsight, it's inexplicable and the charge is unacceptable,” Mkwanazi said.

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