Hatch project director Bester details how ‘aggressive’ talks with Transnet were

The commission has been hearing damning testimony this week about what happened at Transnet.

A screengrab of former managing director of rail at Hatch, Henk Bester, appearing at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg on 20 October 2020. Picture: SABC/YouTube

JOHANNESBURG - Hatch project director Henk Bester has told the state capture commission of aggressive contract negotiations with Transnet, which involved auditing firm McKinsey.

The commission has been hearing damning testimony this week about what happened at Transnet.

Bester has testified how he didn't understand the roles of businessmen Edward Thomas, Velile Skhosana, along with McKinsey, in Hatch’s contract negotiations with Transnet.

He said that Thomas, Skhosana and Transnet CFO Anoj Singh were clearly unhappy with the contract and they were very aggressive, unprofessional and insulting during the negotiations that took nearly a month to conclude.

Bester has struggled to explain why his company, Hatch, included Dave Reddy's company in its second bid for a Transnet contract.

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This was when it had been forced into a partnership with it in the first phase of the manganese rail expansion project.

But he said that the negotiations and awarding of that second contract were not just a walk in the park.

“So Mr Edward Thomas, I couldn't understand his role but he reported to Mr Gary Peter and that he had to do with supplier development and I recall during one of the meetings, he was very aggressive with us about our percentages and the partners that we use or don’t use.”

He said that he felt insulted when businessman Velile Skhosana demanded a 25% discount but it was Singh’s attitude that was most remarkable.

“Where he was sort of in my words reporting to Mr Essa. I think he was trying to think what we think of the situation and he was very aggressive when we signed the contract at Carlton Centre. He again used foul language.”

Bester said that he never understood the role of McKinsey, but its officials secretly listened to and recorded the contract negotiations. He was told they were appointed directly by Singh.

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