Acsa board member jumps ship over Gupta scandal

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BY STEPHAN HOFSTATTER
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul. John Lamola said he wanted to resign from the Acsa board after he learned from a report in the Sunday Times that the Guptas had allegedly played a role in his appointment. File photo.
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul. John Lamola said he wanted to resign from the Acsa board after he learned from a report in the Sunday Times that the Guptas had allegedly played a role in his appointment. File photo.  Image: MARTIN RHODES
The scandal surrounding the Gupta family has claimed its latest victim with the resignation of Airports Company of SA (Acsa) board member John Lamola.

Business Day has obtained a copy of Lamola’s resignation letter‚ which was sent on Wednesday to Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi.

Lamola said he wanted to resign from the Acsa board after he learned from a report in the Sunday Times that the Guptas had allegedly played a role in his appointment.

Lamola’s was among a list of five names to be placed on the Acsa board that the Guptas allegedly gave to an adviser of former transport minister Ben Martins in November 2012.

Lamola and three other people on the Gupta list‚ Advocate Kenosi Moroka‚ Bajabulile Luthuli and Chwayita Mabude‚ were appointed to the Acsa board in December 2012.

The Sunday Times also reported that the decision by Martins to use a legal opinion to reject the Gupta family’s proposals for board members contributed to him being removed from his post in July 2013.

All of them except Lamola were removed in February this year by former transport minister Dipuo Peters and then reinstated by Maswanganyi on May 31 following a cabinet reshuffle.

In his resignation letter this week Lamola said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn “that my selection and appointment to the board of Acsa in December 2012 was a prior subject of discussion among non-state individuals”.

“The insinuations made‚ the ubiquitous public disdain at these allegations of state capture‚ and my personal opposition to this‚ render my continued service as a director of a public institution with a national mandate such as that Acsa is tasked with untenable‚” he said.

“My predicament is further complicated by the fact I am currently the chairman of the board’s social and ethics committee‚ a statutory committee mandated to ensure that Acsa is governed and managed in a manner that is above all moral reproach‚ whether perceptual or proven.”

He assured Maswanganyi that “prior to‚ and during my entire period of service at Acsa‚ I have never been approached or asked in any manner whatsoever by the parties mentioned in the newspaper article to act in any manner that would grant them any favours‚ nor did I ever have any kind of meeting or communication with them during the period in question”.

Last month the EFF wrote a letter to Maswanganyi threatening to interdict the participation of the four board members reinstated in May pending an application to have their reappointment set aside.

The reinstated board members included Mabude‚ Moroka and Luthuli‚ whom the EFF branded Gupta “pawns” and “henchmen”.

The EFF accused the Saxonwold family of “capturing” Acsa because they wanted to benefit from lucrative tenders the company was about to embark on‚ including a R3.2bn contract to upgrade Cape Town International airport‚ and to gain control of the luxury terminal at OR Tambo airport owned by the Oppenheimer family’s aviation company‚ Fireblade.

Business Day has seen no evidence that these directors have furthered the Guptas’ business interests.

Moroka previously told Business Day that he had never met or spoken to the Guptas‚ had never received “any application from any Gupta company” and “abhorred state capture in any form”.

Luthuli‚ Mabude and the Gupta family have not responded to queries.

The EFF said the four Acsa directors had been fired by Peters in February after either failing or refusing to submit to a skills audit.

Although Maswanganyi’s department had advertised the positions and asked members of the public to submit their CVs for consideration‚ on May 31 he “inexplicably” reinstated all four board members as nonexecutive directors for another two years without awaiting the outcome of a public process‚ the EFF said.

Maswanganyi’s letter to Moroka seen by Business Day informs him he is reinstated “with immediate effect on the same terms and conditions as your initial letter of appointment‚ until April 30 2019”.

The EFF said it was unlawful of Maswanganyi to reinstate Moroka and the other three directors because an executive decision once made is final and cannot be revoked by the same decision maker without a judicial review process.

The party contends the “unlawful reinstatement of the Gupta appointees to the Acsa board … will perpetuate the capturing of the state by [the] politically connected Indian family‚ whose acquisition of South African citizenship is overshadowed by a dark cloud”.

The party contends the “unlawful reinstatement of the Gupta appointees to the Acsa board … will perpetuate the capturing of the state by [the] politically connected Indian family‚ whose acquisition of South African citizenship is overshadowed by a dark cloud”.

Maswanganyi’s spokesman Ishmael Mnisi said on Friday the minister had responded to the EFF’s letter of demand‚ without providing any details.

Mnisi did not respond to questions about Lamola’s resignation.

Lamola declined to comment.

– BusinessLIVE

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