Johannesburg - Former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) chief executive Lucky Montana has launched a broadside against the Zondo Commission, accusing it of trying to protect Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe, who played “central roles in the demise” of the embattled agency.
According to his 447-page submission to the commission of state capture and seen by the Sunday Independent, Montana said Gordhan, who was Finance Minister at the time, tried to impose a public-private-partnership (PPP) model on Prasa’s R173 billion passenger rail systems modernisation programme in 2012. This was in addition to attempts by the Gupta family to manipulate Prasa’s rolling fleet renewal programme (RSFRP), which spanned 20 years, and was aimed at changing the travel experience in South Africa.
“Minister Pravin Gordhan and National Treasury wanted the programme to be a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) so that he and his cronies could take control of the programme under the PPP Unit at National Treasury. This was aimed to benefit the Canadian based train manufacturer, Bombardier Transportation Africa Alliance,” read the affidavit.
He said Gordhan also wanted to impose a structure on Prasa that would allow the participation of broad-based black economics in the programme.
“But like the Guptas and other vested interests, the Minister of Finance and National Treasury failed in these attempts. With the solid support of Minister Sibusiso Ndebele (the then Transport Minister) and later Minister Ben Martins, the Prasa team stood firm and was able to drive the RSFRP to realise national transport objectives and government’s social and economic objective.”
Montana said in 2014, Gordhan attempted to use his ministerial powers for approval of government financial commitment to block the programme.
The former Prasa boss said in his submissions that during his 2014 Budget speech, Gordhan was expected to announce the conclusion of the acquisition programme of the new commuter trains but instead he used the platform to undermine the programme and the Cabinet decisions, “insinuating there was corruption in the programme”.
“Gordhan enlisted the support of his Cabinet colleague, Dipuo Peters, who is also a former Transport Minister. Peters tried to force Prasa to cancel the award to Gibela Rail Transportation Consortium, the winning bidder.”
He said Peters made it clear that she would change the board if they did not accede to her instruction to cancel the deal with Gibela.
Montana added that after he and former Prasa chairperson S’fiso Buthelezi rejected these attempts, Gordhan and Peters roped in Health Minister Zweli Mkhize (who was ANC treasurer-general at the time). Mkhize also tried to force them to cancel the deal by calling Gibela “French colonialists” that continued to exploit Africans throughout the African continent, he added.
“It is my testimony that Gordhan was at the heart of the collapse of Prasa,” said Montana.
“Minister Peters, with the collaboration of Minister Gordhan and Dr Mkhize, recommended to Cabinet the appointment of the new board with Popo Molefe as chairman, which in turn irregularly appointed Werksmans Attorneys to undertake the investigation at Prasa and unlawful surveillance.”
Gordhan’s acting spokesperson, Richard Mantu, did not respond to a request for comment. Mkhize’s spokesperson, Lwazi Manzi, said the minister stood by his previous statements that he made last year that Montana’s allegations were not true. Peters could not be reached for a comment.
Montana rejected claims made against him by Molefe and instead accused him of benefitting from people he had parachuting onto the Prasa board.
“He knows that he is not telling the truth. He has been part of the process with both Peters and Gordhan to parachute him, Zodwa Manase (chair of the audit and risk committee) and Willem Steenkamp (chairperson for operational safety) into the board. He should tell the commission how he was nominated, who nominated him and how he got appointed to a board where he was never nominated,” he said.
On Friday, Steenkamp said he was not aware of Montana’s submission, adding that the former Prasa CEO should lay criminal charges against him if he has any evidence of wrongdoing.
Montana maintained that during Molefe’s tenure as chairperson, Prasa also made payments to companies that contributed donations to Molefe and his development trust.
Montana said SA Fence and Gate donated money to Molefe’s development foundation after the company received a tender amounting to R58 million from Martha Ngoye, who was acting as Prasa CEO after he took leave in January 2015.
Molefe said Sunday Independent should rather wait for his affidavit, should the commission release it, because “that’s where we will respond”.
Montana further said in his affidavit that the appointment of Werksmans Attorneys, which was appointed by Molefe’s team to investigate irregular and wasteful expenditures for the 2014/15 financial year, was not only irregular but fraudulent.
The investigation was to have a major impact on the future of Prasa and its ability to deliver on its legal mandate and government’s socio-economic objectives.
“Prasa was dismembered, critical contracts cancelled, experienced strategic and operational leadership of the entity either suspended and/or hounded out, the business looted and supplier network disrupted. This caused incalculable damage to the passenger rail sector as a whole.”
This investigation was also used, Montana said, as a witch-hunt and a proxy for unlawful surveillance on individuals and companies. The key figure in the Werksman investigation was Mr Bernard Hotz. Werksmans worked with a number of companies and individuals to create sophisticated machinery comprising the company itself, Basileus Consilium Professional Services (BCPS), Crowe Howarth Forensics, Ukhozi Forensics and Consulting, Facts Consulting and others. BCPS and Ukhozi were at the heart of the unlawful surveillance, while Crowie Howarth was responsible for tracking the flow of money among individuals and companies.
Facts focused on IT systems and electronic communications, including tracking certain persons on social media.``
Yesterday, Werksmans’ director, Bernard Hotz, said that the law firm denies Montana's allegations. “I refer to your below email requiring a response within an unreasonable time period.
“Notwithstanding the above mentioned I can confirm that Werksmans denies the veracity of Mr Montana’s allegations in totality. An affidavit has already been provided to the State Capture Commission in which Werksmans’ version has been set out.
“It is therefore inappropriate to discuss these matters any further in this forum. We require your undertaking that you shall publish this response in its totality in your article,” Hotz said.
Zondo Commission spokesperson Mbuyiselo Stemela on Friday avoided answering specific questions sent to him. However, he confirmed that the commission had written to Montana and that the answers were in a written letter sent to him.
“The commission does not discuss communication between the commission and its witnesses and you may contact Mr Montana directly as he is the one who shared the information with the media,” said Stemela.