Portia Derby has been appointed group chief executive of Transnet, the department of public enterprises said on Friday night.
The appointment was made following "an extensive and rigorous search", the department said via an emailed statement.
"The recruitment process was run by the board of Transnet, which made a recommendation of the preferred candidate to the public enterprises minister in line with the memorandum of incorporation that governs the relationship between the board and the shareholder representative. Cabinet concurred with the appointment at its meeting on [Friday]," said the department.
It described Derby as an "independent and dynamic leader with vast experience in the public and private sectors".
She is a former director-general of public enterprises, which oversees Transnet and other State-owned entities. Her experience would stand her in good stead said the department.
"She will work with the board, management team, workers, unions and other stakeholders to rebuild an institution that was severely affected by state capture and large-scale corruption.
"Transnet is one of the central entities in our efforts to revive the economy and simultaneously effect deep and meaningful reforms that will be felt by ordinary citizens and businesses as well.
"The company is critical in making South Africa commercially competitive by providing and maintaining key economic infrastructure through our ports, rail and pipeline networks that facilitate the efficient movement of goods from where they are produced."
The department said Derby would be responsible for strengthening Transnet, restoring its integrity and reputation and refocusing it on its core mandate.
"Reviving its infrastructure and significantly improving operational efficiencies at the ports and freight systems are some of the immediate priorities."
Derby is the former wife of Brian Molefe, who headed state power utility Eskom before resigning when his ties to the infamous Gupta family were made public.
Molefe is also a former Transnet CEO. His professional decisions have come under scrutiny at the commission of inquiry into State capture.