State Capture inquiry: Judge Makhubele denies wrongdoing while chair of Prasa board
Pretoria – The former board chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Judge Nana Makhubele, has denied wrongdoing while she headed the public enterprise's board in 2017.
Makhubele finally took the stand at the Zondo commission on Wednesday night following days of delays in matters regarding her testimony.
She was questioned by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo following her request that the evidence leader, advocate Vasi Soni, be removed for alleged bias.
Makhubele, who is now a High Court judge, has been accused by former and current Prasa employees of favouring and interfering in the settling of legal matters between Prasa and a company called Siyaya.
Prasa's head of legal affairs, Martha Ngoye, and general manager for Prasa legal services Fani Dingiswayo had testified that when Judge Makhubele was appointed as chairperson of Prasa's interim board, she became preoccupied with the legal matter involving Siyaya.
Siyaya had been in a legal dispute with Prasa in 2017 regarding services the company claimed it rendered but was not paid for. Prasa disputed the funds and services provided by Siyaya at the time.
Ngoye said Judge Makhubele had motivated for Prasa's legal team to settle the matter with Siyaya and pay the company over R50 million in claims. The team had been against such a settlement, according to Ngoye and Dingiswayo.
The two claimed Judge Makhubele had shared confidential information with Siyaya's legal team and had prevented Prasa's legal team from being involved in the matter. The issue was later settled at an arbitration proceeding, where it was agreed that Prasa would pay Siyaya R59 million with interest added.
Ngoye testified that Prasa did not eventually pay over the funds and the minister of transport at the time, Blade Nzimande, supported Prasa's legal team's efforts to have the settlement rescinded. A High Court dispute over the matter was later settled in Prasa's favour.
Judge Makhubele on Wednesday denied the claims and said she was never preoccupied with settling Siyaya matters.
"I deny that I am one of the people who have been found wanting in any report be it by the Auditor-General, Public Protector or any court of law. No one has found me guilty about wrongdoing at Prasa.
"It is not true that I asked about the Siyaya matter when I arrived. That is not true. When I met them (Ngoye and Dingiswayo), we had a general discussion about Prasa," Makhubele told the commission.
There had been controversy around Judge Makhubele's dual positions as a High Court judge and as the head of Prasa's board. She left her position at Prasa in 2018.