Legal counsel calls for heads to roll at Samsa

Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga is mulling over legal advice she received before pulling the trigger on South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) top executives impli-cated in alleged irregularities.

Chikunga sought legal counsel after a report she received from Morar Incorporated recommended criminal and civil action against board member Lucas Haluodi, disciplinary action against the company’s former acting CEO Sobantu Tilayi and civil actions against three external parties.

Chikunga’s spokesperson, Collen Msibi, told Sunday World that her office received the investigative report dated April 8 last year. It concluded that Haluodi colluded with businesspeople in the maritime industry to discredit Tilayi by fabricating allegations of fraud, maladministration and abuse of power against him.

This resulted in Tilayi being suspended from the cushy job.

The report, which we have seen, accused Haluodi of leaking confidential board information to the co-conspirators, bringing the Samsa board into disrepute and participating in a malicious campaign to weaken the authority’s management.

It also found that Haluodi contravened his fiduciary duty as specified in the Public Finance Management Act and compromised confidentiality.

In response, Haluodi said the investigators failed to thoroughly consider his submissions.

The investigators named the other players in the plot as Richard Kawie, a business consultant previously accused of orchestrating the fraudulent misappropriation of hundreds of millions in textile workers’ provident funds.

Haluodi also allegedly colluded with Crystal Bassett-Simmonds, co-founder of SA Marine Fuels (SAMF), and Siyamthanda Maya, CEO of SAMF.

 SA Marine Fuels was the second licence holder to conduct bunkering services on the South African east coast.

Kawie allegedly impersonated a national executive committee member of Disabled People SA, an NGO, in communication with Samsa and allegedly
flooded the board with complaints against Tilayi.

The report alleged that leaks were intended to pressure the Samsa board to act against Tilayi, who was subsequently put on precautionary suspension in April 2021 when he was Samsa COO.

Tilayi then wanted to become the agency’s permanent CEO. However, Haluodi also had similar ambitions after his previous stint in 2006 ended with Samsa booting him out and a court battle in 2009.

“As misrepresentation and manipulation within Samsa has resulted in significant disruption to the organisation’s management, it is recommended that a legal opinion be obtained for the pursuance of civil and criminal action against Kawie, Bassett-Simmonds, Maya and Haluodi.”

“All Samsa business with the organisations represented by the above individuals should be suspended, pending the outcome of the legal process undertaken,” said the report.

The report also said Haluodi denied leaking board information and claimed his email address had been used in a cyber-attack, but the compilers of the report disagreed. Kawie allegedly did not wish to consult with the investigation team.

Basset-Simmonds suggested further investigations against Tilayi.

At the time the report was released, the ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula was the minister and the investigators recommended suspending Haluodi. Chikunga took over from Mbalula in March this year.

Msibi said after studying the report, Chikunga wrote to Haluodi who responded via his legal representative.

“The minister, in considering the response, sought legal counsel. She has received the opinion and is considering the matter,” he said.

But even as claims of fraud, maladministration and abuse of power against him were allegedly embellished, Tilayi was also not entirely off the hook.

The report recommended disciplinary measures against him for fruitless and wasteful expenditure and conflict of interest

Tilayi had, among others, said the report, spent money on legal fees in Samsa’s legal dispute with SAMF, after he allegedly wanted to impose a black business partner on the firm.

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