State Capture-implicated Sfiso Buthelezi sat on ANC deployment committee
In the minutes of the ANC’s deployment committee, the name of Sfiso Buthelezi sticks out. The former Prasa board chairperson was implicated in allegations of corruption at both the Zondo Commission and in a Public Protector report.
This week, minutes of the ANC’s deployment committee became public. A notable name on the committee was that of Sfiso Buthelezi, the MP who was the board chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
The Democratic Alliance said the minutes, which cover meetings from 2018 to 2020, were released publicly by the Zondo Commission after “sustained pressure”.
Buthelezi is no stranger to the government or the ANC. City Press reported he was a former Umkhonto weSizwe member who was imprisoned on Robben Island for nine years. Between 1994 and 1999, he was an economic adviser to Jacob Zuma, who was then KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Affairs. He was also an adviser to Mathews Phosa during his premiership in Mpumalanga.
Between 2005 and 2014, Buthelezi sat on the board of Prasa and for six of those years, he was board chairperson, ending in 2014. This was during Prasa’s modernisation programme, spearheaded by controversial group CEO Lucky Montana.
Later, allegations would emerge that Buthelezi failed to disclose his business interests in Makana Investment Corporation, which has a 15% stake in a company called Cadiz which provided advisory services to Prasa.
This failure to disclose his interest was featured in the Derailed report by the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
At the Zondo Commission, Buthelezi, via an affidavit, denied his company Sebenza Forwarding and Shipping had gained R99-million from the front company Swifambo during an ill-fated rail deal.
Describing Buthelezi, Popo Molefe (who succeeded Buthelezi as Prasa board chair) said he might have been an enabler of State Capture at the struggling agency, the SABC reported.
For a full breakdown of Buthelezi’s history at the rail agency, read:
In the ANC deployment committee minutes, Buthelezi was present on three occasions when the Prasa board was discussed.
According to the meeting, Buthelezi was present in a meeting on 22 March 2019, where comments included “remove Nazir Alli, has proven to be dogmatic”. Blade Nzimande was transport minister at the time and the agency’s interim board was led by Khanyisile Kweyama, who was labelled “Madam Fix It” in Parliament.
Buthelezi is recorded as being in attendance at another meeting on 14 October 2019. After the 2019 national elections, Fikile Mbalula was appointed as transport minister. It is recorded in the minutes that Mbalula had “several” vacant boards, but the deployment committee only had time to go through the boards of Prasa and the Road Accident Fund.
“The PRASA board process had started before the minister was appointed; the adverts have gone out and have been closed, the current interim board has been extended twice and needs to be finalised urgently,” read the deployment committee minutes.
“In all appointment letters, there should be provision for review of performance after a year where the minister has the authority to replace any board member,” read the minutes.
The last record of minutes about Prasa, dated 9 October 2020, read: “The presentation was welcomed and supported as it included youth, experience, skills and gender balance. There was a request for labour representation on future transport boards”.
Following a high court-ordered appointment, on 22 October 2020 former ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane was appointed to head the first permanent board since the departure of Molefe and his board in 2017.
Buthelezi confirmed to Daily Maverick he had been on the ANC’s deployment committee since 2018, but referred his involvement on the committee to the party.
ANC legal adviser Krish Naidoo told Daily Maverick the party could not comment on the minutes because it was unclear how access to them had been granted. He said that while the DA had launched a court application for access to the ANC’s deployment committee records between 2013 and 2021, the ANC was opposing this. He confirmed the courts were still to hear the matter.
Naidoo questioned how the DA’s Leon Schreiber gained access to the minutes when they had been given to the Zondo Commission with the “strict” understanding they were only to be used for the cross-examination of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. While there was no clarity on how the minutes had been released, and given the litigation, Naidoo said the party could not comment on the minutes themselves. DM