South Africa


Prasa derailed as lawyers walk out ahead of billion-rand corruption deal appeal

Prasa derailed as lawyers walk out ahead of billion-rand corruption deal appeal
Access gates installed by Siyangena at Cape Town Station never worked. (Archive photo: Kim Reynolds)

Siyangena has appealed against the court judgment setting aside its contracts.

The Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (Prasa) has again been dropped by its lawyers as a crucial appearance in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) looms – the latest development in a long-running landmark anti-corruption saga.

Prasa is facing an appeal in the SCA against the October 2020 Pretoria high court judgment that set aside contracts between the rail agency and Siyangena Technologies.

In the high court, Siyangena was found to have unlawfully won contracts worth billions of rand to supply security infrastructure to Prasa stations for the 2010 World Cup and subsequent contracts. These items included automated speedstile gates, information boards, CCTV, lights and communication systems, to a contract value of approximately R6-billion. These contracts were set aside.

Siyangena is appealing the judgment. But on 19 January, Werksmans Attorneys, the law firm that has been representing Prasa in the action, served the SCA with a notice of withdrawal as Prasa’s attorneys of record in the matter.

Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda told GroundUp: “The decision to end the relationship with Werksmans was a business decision. We will communicate further on the Siyangena case at the right time.”

Werksmans declined to comment.

However, GroundUp has been told by reliable sources that Werksmans withdrew due to non-payment of fees by Prasa.

Werksmans Attorneys has been representing Prasa in a series of civil cases against corrupt contractors, most notably the successful setting aside of the Swifambo contract, and the high court victory in the Siyangena matter.

If Prasa is not represented in the SCA matter, it is liable to pay Siyangena up to R8-billion including interest, according to a source.

Zackie Achmat of #UniteBehind, which was admitted as amicus curiae (friends of the court), told GroundUp that the commuter activist organisation believes that by not defending the Siyangena appeal, the Prasa board would be in breach of its fiduciary duties.

“It appears quite sinister that the politically-connected Siyangena, who were possibly benefactors to the ANC, are in line to be handed between R4.5- and R8-billion despite clear findings against them in the Pretoria high court,” said Achmat.

“#UniteBehind will approach the court to compel Prasa to ensure its representation in the SCA by lawyers who are knowledgeable in relation to the matter. In this case, it is Werksmans,” he said.

Werksmans’ status as Prasa’s attorneys has not been without controversy. Since 2016, members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport have questioned Werksmans’ work at Prasa, as has the EFF.

Current Prasa Chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane has shown a hostility to Werksmans that precedes his appointment to the Prasa board. According to the records of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, Ramatlakane questioned the work of the lawyers during at least eight separate sittings of the parliamentary committee between 2016 and 2018. By comparison, in the same period, Ramatlakane did not ask any questions about Siyangena or even Swifambo during the sittings.

This is not the first time that Werksmans has had to withdraw from representing Prasa. In February 2020, Werksmans dropped Prasa after the rail agency failed to pay a R8-million invoice. In the same month, #UniteBehind filed an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court to compel Prasa to appoint attorneys to represent it in the matter.

GroundUp could not establish when the Siyangena matter will be heard by the SCA at the time of publication. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    All these court cases and no money. Yet another piss-up and brewery scenario?

  • Patrick Devine says:

    What a simple way to get R6 Billion for the crooked cadres.

    No doubt the ANC will get 10% –
    R600 million – just what they need to pay their staff and fund their conference at the end of the year.

    What scum PRASA is

  • Richard Fitzpatrick says:

    Ramatlakane sounds like a bloke who’s got the country’s best interests at heart, doesn’t he!

  • Jax Snyman says:

    Hard not to buy into the conspiracy theory postulated here given PASAS’s history of state capture.
    Not sure to which authority the duty would fall to notify the current board that they would liable in their personal capacities for any losses incurred should PRASA not have adequate legal representation in the appeal lodged by Siyangena Technologies. The time for this body to act is already past.

    • virginia crawford says:

      It sounds very sinister and Mr Ramatlakane sounds like a very biased person: how did he get appointed? If only the Hawks could investigate the money trail and relationships.

      • Mike Monson says:

        He was appointed by the ANC’s Cadre Deployment Committee and the Hawks can investigate if they are allowed to by their ANC masters. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the ANC to do the right thing

      • Charles Parr says:

        They were in such a hurry to get rid of the last guy because he was obviously taking steps to turn the taps off. If one looks at who appointed this guy then one gets a better idea of what is happening there.

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    Is Current Prasa Chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane on the take? Maybe fikile should explain why the anc government as sole shareholder is prepared to throw away R 8bn of taxpayers money. Oh it’s easy – it’s taxpayers money and the anc will get their share from Siyangena. A win-win for the anc.

  • Charles Parr says:

    They were in such a hurry to get rid of the last guy because he was obviously taking steps to turn the taps off. If one looks at who appointed this guy then one gets a better idea of what is happening there.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    The book stops at Fikile, chief election organiser from the last elections. A rodent smell is in the air.

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