Head of troubled coal line exits Transnet

23rd October 2023 By: News24Wire

 Head of troubled coal line exits Transnet

Photo by: Creamer Media

In the latest in a slew of resignations, Transnet’s managing executive for the critical export coal line, Ali Motala, is leaving the embattled State-owned company.

Several high-placed sources have confirmed Motala's departure from Transnet Freight Rail (TFR), although the terms of his departure remain unclear.

Motala’s exit follows the recent resignations of Transnet Group CEO Portia Derby, group CFO Nonkululeko Dlamini and TFR CEO Sizakele Mzimela.

Transnet had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication, and Motala could not be reached for comment.

Long-serving TFR employee Motala joined the State-owned logistics company almost 30 years ago, during which time he has held various executive roles.

In late 2021, he was appointed head of Transnet Freight Rail’s (TFR) North Corridor. Prior to that, he had served as a strategic advisor in the office of the Transnet CEO.

The North Corridor is a critical line for the economy as it facilitates the movement of export coal from the Mpumalanga heartlands to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT).

The line is also a key revenue driver for both TFR and the Transnet group as a whole.

But in the face of security challenges, locomotive shortages and other operational issues, the line has performed poorly and last year railed the lowest volumes of coal to RBCT in three decades. Meanwhile, roads to alternative ports have been battered by trucks as producers have tried to take advantage of attractive export coal prices. 

The challenges have persisted this year, and TFR has capped its annual targeted volumes at 60-million tonnes, as compared with a design capacity of 81-million tonnes per annum. Rail constraints are among the key reasons behind retrenchment processes that have been launched in the coal industry, most notably by Glencore and Seriti Power.  

Motala’s exit and the raft of resignations come just weeks after the group reported a R5.7-billion loss, prompting Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to order a sweeping review by the new Transnet board.

The board was asked to look into a number of areas, including the performance of executive management and their ability to perform their duties.

In calling for the review, Gordhan also referred to the Auditor-General's findings, which had called for urgent and corrective action, particularly within the Transnet Freight Rail division.

TFR is also at the centre of a probe by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which is investigating a "ghost trains" criminal syndicate allegedly run by a network of Transnet employees and freight logistics middlemen.

The SIU’s Kaizer Kganyago told News24 it was too soon to say who had been implicated as the investigation was ongoing.