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Peters defends Prasa's axed chief Letsoalo

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Johannesburg - Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has defended axed Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) acting chief executive Collins Letsoalo as a corruption buster who was dismissed by the former board for standing up to corruption.

In her affidavit lodged with the High Court in Pretoria yesterday, Peters said the dissolved board was untruthful to the court in its affidavit regarding circumstances that led to Letsoalo’s firing.

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Transport Minister Dipuo Peters says the Prasa board which she dissolved was untruthful to the court.

“They have without citing Mr Collins Letsoalo” she argued, “deliberately misled this court and the public about him increasing his salary by 350 percent when they know this not to be true and without even citing him, so that he can defend himself.”

Letsoalo, a senior department of transport official, was seconded to Prasa last year following the unceremonial sacking of former chief executive Lucky Montana amid allegations of corruption.

However, the disbanded board last month fired him after claims that he had hiked his salary by 350 percent to R5.9 million since taking the helm, unleashing a war of words with Peters.

The board, which was led by ANC veteran Popo Molefe, referred him back to the department for disciplinary action.

But the department did not institute any disciplinary proceedings and instead reappointed him to his former position as chief financial officer.

Last week Peters dissolved the board after accusing it of failing to adhere to good corporate governance in running the rail agency.

She then appointed an interim board led by former Sanral veteran chief executive Nazir Alli.

Read also: Strike looms at Prasa

In his affidavit on behalf of the disbanded board, Molefe accused Peters of ignoring its preferred list of candidates and imposing Letsoalo on Prasa.

He said Letsoalo was given a free rein and behaved as though he was untouchable.

“Mr Letsoalo, far from advancing his understood mandate, which was to improve Prasa’s core service and deliver a turnaround strategy, seemingly embarked on a personal campaign to restructure Prasa and enrich himself,” Molefe said. He reiterated that his board never approved Letsoalo's salary increase.

Molefe then launched an urgent application to declare the dissolution of the board illegal. The matter was meant to be heard yesterday, but has been postponed to today.

Unclear

But it remains unclear whether the matter will proceed as scheduled as Letsoalo has also asked to be a respondent, claiming that he believed he had a direct interest in the application. Letsoalo asked for the matter to be postponed to next week to give him time to file his papers.

Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumisi Attorneys director, Mandla Mnisi, said Molefe would find it hard to convince the court that the disbanding of his board was illegal.

“In my view, I don’t believe the minister’s decision was required to be rational in this matter. This was an executive decision rather than an administrative decision,” Mnisi said.

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