TRANSNET has announced that Ms Portia Derby will be stepping down as group chief executive and an executive board director with effect from October 31.

Group chief financial officer and fellow executive board director Ms Nonkululeko Dlamini left Transnet on September 29, having served a month’s notice after submitting her resignation.

Derby joined Transnet on February 1 2020 and has, according to the company, steered it through “an extremely challenging period” that followed the setting aside of the Rand 54.4bn ($US 3.6bn) contract signed in March 2014 with four manufacturers for the supply of 1064 locomotives.

This contract has created “a significant binding constraint for Transnet that remains to this day,” requiring it to resort to open tender to procure the spare parts needed to restore 164 class 22E locomotives supplied by CRRC E-Loco to operating condition.

In addition, both Derby and Dlamini were in post at Transnet as the company had to contend with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, immediately followed by widespread theft and vandalism on South Africa’s rail network.

Transnet was also adversely impacted by the hacking of its IT system, industrial action at the end of last year and flooding in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, where significant spending was required to return Transnet’s vital Johannesburg – Durban freight corridor to service.

As CEO, Derby has also been responsible for driving the introduction of restorative governance measures and stabilising the company.

As well as securing a private partner for container terminal operator Transnet Port Terminals, she has worked to introduce government reforms that aim to restructure the rail sector and enable the growth of the logistics sector in South Africa.

Transnet Pipelines chief executive, Ms Michelle Phillips, will be acting Transnet group chief executive with effect from November 1 until a permanent appointment is made. Derby will be available until the end of this year to support Philips and the Transnet board during the handover process.

Ms Hlengiwe Makhathini, currently head of corporate finance at Transnet, will act as group CFO while a permanent replacement is sought.

“On behalf of the board, I want to take this opportunity to convey to Portia and Nonkululeko our best wishes and to express our gratitude for their dedication, selflessness and hard work in serving the company during this critical time in its history,” says Transnet board chairperson, Mr Andile Sangqu.