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Johannesburg - The National Transport Movement (NTM) on Monday threatened to use its numbers to compel law-enforcement agencies to probe alleged corruption at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) running into billions of rands.

It also demanded that the agency's embattled board be allowed to finish its term of office. Ephraime Mphahlele, the president of NTM - an affiliate of South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), said that the union would mobilise its 10,000 members at Prasa if law-enforcement agencies failed to properly investigate the allegations.

"NTM and Saftu demands that the board must be allowed to finish its work and that the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), who appear to be politically captured, must urgently arrest and bring culprits to book. Should they fail to do so, NTM will embark on sustained mass action until justice is done on these matters," Mphahlele said.

"The whole procurement of the new trains by Prasa, for instance, has also been riddled with corruption. The value of corruption at Prasa by far exceeds the arms-deal corruption and should therefore not be left unchallenged." Prasa chairman Popo Molefe approached the High Court in Pretoria last month asking it to compel the Directorate for Priority Criminal Investigations (the Hawks) to investigate corruption in 142 contracts worth R24 billion at Prasa.

Prasa has already spent at least R148 million investigating malfaisance relating to the procurement of new diesel and electric locomotives, with Molefe leading the charge. Deputy finance minister, Sifiso Buthelezi, has been implicated but has strenuously denied any wrongdoing in relation to contracts Prasa signed on his watch as chairman.

Mphahlele said transport minister, Joe Maswanganyi, was jumping the gun by writing to the Prasa board informing it about terminating its membership, since the board only has five weeks left in its term, and it seemed an attempt to bedevil the investigation. "The current minister of transport, Joe Maswanganyi, is now yet again mysteriously seeking to dissolve the current board of Prasa and stop forensic investigators from continuing and uncovering more rot over and above the embarrassing corporate rot already uncovered thus far," Mphahlele said.

"The minister has written to the board chairperson saying he wants to dissolve the board and gave its members seven days to provide reasons as to why he should allow them to stay in office, even though Molefe has only five more weeks in office. This showed eagerness to dissolve the board and disrupt investigation progress."

Mphahlele ended by saying that the union calls for the resignations of President Jacob Zuma, Maswanganyi and his deputy, as well as Buthelezi.