Former Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi has again been implicated for corruption and wrongdoing at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The commission resumed its hearings on Monday with evidence from former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) Board Chairperson, Popo Molefe.
Molefe says Buthelezi might have been one of the enablers of state capture at Prasa. He says in November 2014, Buthelezi wanted an irregular tender for the modernisation of the Braamfontein Depot fast-tracked before resigning from the rail agency. He was at the time Prasa Chairperson of the Finance and Capital Investment Committee.
“Whether there was reason for him to have delayed it, I don’t know, but when I read Mr Montana’s report to Minister Jeff Radebe he blames the board for having delayed that tender whereas we were seeing it for the first time in that meeting in November. He wanted it approved as he was leaving whether there was any motive or not I don’t know and I don’t want to impute any motive to that,” says Molefe.
In former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on Prasa titled, Derailed, Buthelezi is said to have overlooked rampant mismanagement and alleged corruption during his tenure as board chair at the rail agency.
Molefe says his board became aware of the R2 billion tender involving trains manufactured in Brazil in 2014 and former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana misled them regarding it.
Molefe says they needed assurance that the tender process was proper, which Montana failed to show. He says the board then cancelled the tender and Montana then mobilised outside forces to get rid of him. He says there was a detailed report on how they could oust him and his board out of Prasa.
“When I briefed the top six of my party, I referred to the fact that our investigation showed that we were misled. There was this tender that was about to be issued and it was irregular and we are conducting several other investigations but the speed in which the media campaign, mass mobilisations, demonstrations and all these other forces were being mobilised against the board clearly to me was intended to stop those investigations.”
No proper board nor CEO
Molefe also told the commission that Prasa has not had a proper board nor CEO for the past five years. He says since the departure of former CEO Lucky Montana in 2015, the company has not been able to fill many key executive positions.
“Five years since Montana left. (Zondo) Five years? Yes, five years. They have been appointing acting people, acting this, acting that, five years and that is an organisation that is managing R173 billion of rail infrastructure. And since the departure of my board, Prasa has not had a proper reconstituted board. It has things like interim boards which are not provided for in the law,” says Molefe.
The veteran politician says he was surprised when in 2017, the then Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi dissolved his board at a time when they were investigating rampant corruption at the rail agency. Molefe says they were removed because they took a firm decision against graft.
He has asked Justice Raymond Zondo to invite Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport to testify at the State Capture Commission regarding its oversight on Prasa.
In the video below, Monday’s sitting of the commission: