Cape Town – Former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) acting chief executive Mthuthuzeli Swartz, who this week appeared in court on fraud and money laundering charges, said he would use the court process to clear his name.
Swartz made his first appearance in the Port Elizabeth Regional Court on Tuesday after he was charged with fraud and money laundering related to the theft of 200-ton steel railway tracks in the Eastern Cape.
It has been reported that in 2013 the police and the Transnet Specialised Investigation Unit confiscated railway tracks up to 5km long at the Port of Durban.
Swartz said a letter circulating on social media, purporting to have his signature and authorising the New Reclamation Group to transport and process used rails and steel rail sleepers, was fake.
The letter, dated January 30, 2013, said the New Reclamation Group had transported and processed the rail and steel rail sleepers on behalf of Spanish Ice Logistics, as the chosen BEE partner in conjunction with the Rail Modernisation Programme.
“The charges relate to a letter was that forged, it is not an authentic letter. I will abide by the court process, there is no getting around that. The letter is fake, and someone bought the letter. I will go to court to set the record straight,” Swartz said.
He was released on bail of R2 000 and will appear in court again on February 27.
The United National Transport Union in the meantime welcomed the court action against Swartz, saying the law had taken its course in the first high-level prosecution of a former senior management member of Prasa.
“The tracks where cut in pieces of 6m each and were already placed in containers ready to be shipped abroad at the Port of Durban. It is alleged that Swartz signed a contract with a private company to remove 18km of railway tracks between Ugie and Elliot to the value of R60million,” it said.
General secretary Steve Harris added: “It is time that South Africans take charge and protect our rail infrastructure that provides the cheapest form of transport to the poorest of the poor, and that is the cheapest means of transporting goods and commodities from our ports.”
Swartz was removed from his role at Prasa Rail in April last year and Sibusiso Sithole was appointed for a period of 12 months effective from June last year.