South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

No one at the Prasa helm: Dipuo Peters and Popo Molefe point fingers at each other

Former transport minister Dipuo Peters and former Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe. (Photos: Gallo Images / Thapelo Maphakela | Gallo Images / Beeld / Lisa Hnatowicz)

Much of Tuesday’s testimony at the State Capture Commission focused on a key issue: Why did the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa not replace Group CEO Lucky Montana immediately after he left the agency? Former transport minister Dipuo Peters and ex-board chairperson Popo Molefe say the other is to blame.

The State Capture Commission heard on Tuesday 23 February that following the resignation of Lucky Montana from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), there was nobody to replace him. Since Montana’s departure in 2015, Prasa has not had a permanent group chief executive officer (GCEO). 

Montana had been GCEO at the state rail agency until he resigned in spectacular fashion in 2015. But, before the commission, both former transport minister Dipuo Peters and former board chairperson Popo Molefe claimed the delay to appoint a new GCEO was due to the other person. 

Peters took the stand on Tuesday morning, to continue her testimony from Monday.

There was no pressure from Zuma to reinstate Lucky Montana at Prasa, says former transport minister Dipuo Peters

 

Prasa evidence leader for the commission, advocate Vas Soni, told Peters that Molefe had testified that Peters had “frustrated” the board’s process to appoint a new GCEO. 

“I didn’t frustrate the process,” she said, and told the commission that she had been working on hiring a replacement for Montana. 

After Montana left Prasa, Nathi Khena was appointed as acting GCEO between July 2015 and June 2016. Then, Collins Letsoalo was appointed between June 2016 and March 2017. He was followed by Lindikhaya Zide – Prasa’s company secretary was appointed by the board to be acting GCEO in March 2017. 

Peters told the commission she had been concerned by Zide’s appointment. When asked by Soni how a company secretary could be appointed as an acting GCEO, Peters said, “The best person to ask [about] this is Mr Molefe.” 

Peters told the commission Molefe had said Prasa was not ready for a new GCEO. 

In the afternoon session, Molefe returned to the stand for the third time. Molefe said Montana had been tasked with finding a “talent search company” to start the recruitment process for his replacement. According to Molefe, Montana was happy to “assist the board in identifying his successor”. However, when Montana left in July 2015, he had not found a talent search company. 

Molefe said that only in January 2016 – almost six months after Montana left – had the board found a recruitment agency. 

But when Soni asked if Prasa had “no captain of the ship,” Molefe said the board had given three names of potential GCEOs for Peters’ consideration. This included motivations and CVs for each candidate – but Peters was the cause of the delay. 

Molefe admitted that the board had been willing to extend Montana’s contract in order to find a replacement, as they had “not yet” been aware of the allegations against Montana. 

Commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had questions for Molefe. 

Zondo asked why, if the board knew for six months that Montana would be leaving, was there no rush to find a replacement. In addition, Zondo asked if it was not the “duty of the board to make up its mind” – to either find a recruitment agency or to find a replacement for Montana. 

Molefe said the board had written to Peters in May 2016 to say the appointment of a new GCEO was urgent. 

In closing, Zondo asked how could Prasa – which was important to the economy, but riddled with allegations of corruption and faced with irregular expenditure – be allowed “not to have a permanent GCEO? How is this possible?”

Since Montana left the agency in 2015, Prasa has not had a permanent GCEO. Thandeka Mabija is the acting GCEO until a permanent candidate is appointed. 

On Wednesday, evidence related to Prasa will continue. Soni said evidence related to the Swifambo deal will be heard.

Gravy Trains: R500m from failed Prasa locomotives deal ‘fraudulently’ funnelled to trust, private accounts and properties

 

Evidence will be heard from an investigator and a liquidator. Swifambo director Auswell Mashaba has had a summons issued against him, said Soni. However, on Monday 15 February, Mashaba’s lawyers wrote to the commission to say the summons was defective and irregular, and based on this, Mashaba would not appear.  

Soni told Zondo the commission’s legal team had sent a letter to Mashaba’s lawyers to say they could apply to set aside the summons, but until then, the summons was valid. Soni said the commission’s legal team had not received a response. 

Soni said he hoped “good sense prevails” and Mashaba appears on Wednesday. DM

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  • Never mind the finger-pointing about who was responsible for getting a replacement for Lucky Montana, far more pertinent is WHO was responsible for appointing Lucky in the first instance? Lucky indeed for him, decidedly VERY unlucky for South Africa.