Sunday, December 16, 2018
Siyabonga Gama

Siyabonga Gama


SIYABONGA Gama runs arguably the most important part of South Africa’s government-controlled infrastructure: the country’s ports and railway network. South Africa lost out on much of the benefits of the last commodities boom partly because Transnet did not have sufficient capacity to move bulk commodities such as coal, chrome and manganese to ports, including Richards Bay, for export. The result was a decade-long slanging match between Transnet and the coal exporters over who was to blame. Frankly, fingers can be pointed at both sides. Transnet did drag its feet on increasing railage capacity, but the exporters were also guilty of not meeting export volume commitments to Transnet when markets turned down. That’s largely been sorted out on Gama’s watch through implementation of take-or-pay contracts on the coal exporters similar to those on the Sishen-Saldanha iron ore line. It seems a more workable relationship has been reached between the two sides under Gama who – in public at any rate – comes across as far more reasonable than his predecessor Brian Molefe. To adapt that old quip about the “Australian with a balanced outlook”, Molefe appeared to have an ideological chip on both shoulders, judging by his public tirades against the coal exporters.


He holds a BCom from the University of Swaziland, along with qualifications in port management from the universities of Singapore and Delft, as well as a Trium Global MBA from the Wharton School, the London School of Economics, Stern Business School and HEC Paris School of Management. He joined Transnet in 1994 and rose swiftly through the ranks, surviving a messy episode in 2010 when he was summarily dismissed from his position as chief executive of Transnet Freight Rail. He was re-instated in February 2011 by a new Transnet board. Gama moved to the top job at Transnet when Molefe was redeployed to run Eskom in 2015.