Former acting Prasa CEO Collins Letsoalo. File picture: Phill Magakoe/Independent Media
Cape Town - Axed Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chief executive Collins Letsoalo on Monday emerged as the biggest winner after the high court in Pretoria ruled that he had deserved the 350 percent salary increase he was sacked for by the rail agency’s board.

In a judgment that also reinstated the dissolved Prasa board, Judge PM Mabuse said it was a myth that Letsoalo wanted to unilaterally increase his salary to compare with that of his predecessor.

“The truth is, that based on the information before the court, Letsoalo was entitled to the same package that was agreed upon in his appointment or the same package enjoyed by (axed chief executive) Lucky Montana,” Judge Mabuse said.

The court had previously denied Letsoalo's request to be a responded in the matter after he asked to be allowed to defend himself against the allegations made about the board against him.

The reinstated board is led by ANC veteran, Popo Molefe.

The judgment further dents the credibility of former transport minister Dipuo Peters, who was one of the surprise casualties of last month’s cabinet reshuffle.

Peters had appointed an interim board led by Sanral former chief executive Nazir Alli. Peters at the time said she had decided to ignore the “unsolicited advice” she had received from the board’s lawyers imploring her not to proceed with appointing an interim board before its urgent application could be heard.

Judge Mabuse accused Peters of acting in a “greatly unreasonable manner” in dismissing the board. In February, the reinstated board fired Letsoalo, a senior departmental official who was seconded by the department to Prasa in an acting capacity, following the sacking of former chief executive Lucky Montana last year.

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The board showed Letsoalo the door after claims that he had hiked his salary by 350 percent to R5.9 million since taking the helm.

Letsoalo had found himself at the centre of the feud between the Molefe led board and Peters with the former accusing him of enriching himself at the expense of the rail agency and with the latter declaring Letsoalo a corruption buster of note.

However, Judge Mabuse found that the board could not be fired for axing Letsoalo as it was well within its powers to do so.

“The minister [Peters] should therefore have accepted the board’s decision to terminate his secondment rather than disciplining the board for it."