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Removing Prasa rot is a massive undertaking, but investigations advanced, says SIU

Removing Prasa rot is a massive undertaking, but investigations advanced, says SIU
Illustrative image: Commuters hang on to trains at Rondebosch Station in Cape Town. (Photo: GroundUp / Ashraf Hendricks) | Missing rails at the Old Benrose Station in Johannesburg. (Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed) |(Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath ) | Prasa’s new People’s Train. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

The Special Investigating Unit says it is finalising criminal, disciplinary and civil litigation referrals at the country’s rail agency. Prasa faces another commission of inquiry following recommendations by the Zondo commission.

‘We confirm that certain matters were completed in 2021 and currently all 27 matters are now completed. We are in the process of finalising the criminal, disciplinary and civil litigation referrals,” said the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) in response to queries related to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

The SIU told Daily Maverick that memoranda of closure and its Presidential Report were also being completed. The report would be submitted for review in November and then submitted to the Presidency. 

prasa rot

A girl sits on the disused Prasa train tracks in Philippi station on the Central Line in Cape Town. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

In August 2019, a proclamation was issued by President Cyril Ramaphosa calling for the SIU to investigate serious maladministration in Prasa’s affairs; improper or unlawful conduct by employees and officials of Prasa; intentional or negligent loss of public money or damage to public property, and unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money or property. 

The SIU had to investigate these issues between 1 January 2010 and the date of the proclamation, 13 August 2019.

Zondo recommendations

Making remarks specific to Prasa during his response to the recommendations of the Zondo commission of inquiry, President Ramaphosa said he would wait for the SIU and investigations by the Hawks, as well as a review by the Prasa board.

Initially, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said a new commission should be held to find out why and how Prasa was allowed to slide into almost total ruin.

Vandalism, theft of infrastructure, loss of revenue and corrupt contracts have kept Prasa in the headlines since 2010.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Chief Justice calls for special commission to investigate Prasa’s implosion

“A determination will be made on whether these processes have sufficiently addressed the matters raised by the (Zondo) commission and whether a Commission of Inquiry would serve that purpose,” reads the Presidency’s response to the Prasa-related recommendations.

Further, the Presidency said a proclamation would be issued to “broaden the scope and set timeframes for an expanded SIU investigation into Prasa based on the evidence before the State Capture Commission”.

The initial recommendations on Prasa were wide ranging: apart from the additional commission of inquiry, there were calls for investigations and prosecutions relating to the Swifambo and Siyangena deals, and for all Hawks investigations related to Prasa to be finalised as soon as possible.

It’s also recommended that the NPA “immediately appoints a team that would oversee the investigations and prosecution of those suspected of committing criminal offences in respect of wrongdoing at Prasa”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “NPA mum on appointment of special team to investigate wrongdoing at Prasa

Forensic investigations commissioned

“Prasa will cooperate and continues to cooperate with the ongoing investigations mentioned by the President, and plead that we allow the SIU and the Hawks to conduct their work without any fear, favour or prejudice,” said Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda.

The Prasa board and management have implemented some of the recommendations of the various reports — including the Public Protector’s Derailed report, the Zondo commission report and the SIU and Auditor-General (AG) reports, said Makanda.

“The implementation of the recommendations are at various stages,” she said.

Makanda said that after the AG’s reports into irregularities and referrals to the SIU, the SIU recommended 44 employees be disciplined and undergo consequence management.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

“Of the 44, 11 resigned,” said Makanda, adding that “currently 33 employees are undergoing disciplinary action and consequence management… and these processes are at different stages”. 

There are six active cases at Prasa, said Makanda.

In the Siyangena contract, three executives were identified for criminal investigation and “that process is still ongoing”. 

On the Derailed report by the Public Protector, Makanda said four senior managers were dismissed, “but the CCMA reinstated three of them”.

From the second Derailed report, two senior managers were dismissed and they “did not challenge their dismissal”.

“Since the appointment of the board, several forensic investigations have been commissioned… details of the investigations currently under way will be made available at an appropriate time and platform,” said Makanda. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    The time for endless commissions of enquiry into Prasa are over. The (previous) Public Protector released her report into Prasa in 2015. Following its recommendations, forensic investigations were undertaken into hundreds of Prasa contracts going back to 2012. The findings recommended disciplinary action, prosecution or investigation of a large number of implicated individuals both inside and outside PRASA.

    But nothing happened. In 2015, the then chair, of Prasa Popo Molefe brought to the attention of the ANC Top 6 proof that the ANC had received a R79 million kickback from Auswell Mashaba, the guy whose company delivered the locomotives that were too tall. But the ANC Top 6 did nothing.

    The ANC-dominated Portfolio Committee on Transport vilified Polo Molefe and tried to block a Werksmans investigation that Molefe launched thereafter.

    The Werkmans investigation confirmed widespread corruption inside and outside Prasa. In 2016, Molefe handed its findings to the Hawks. But the Hawks did nothing. So in 2017 Prasa took the Hawks to court to compel them to take action. Despite losing this case, the Hawks have still done nothing.

    It is impossible to draw any conclusion from this story other than this: the ANC has and continues to deliberately thwart any attempt to prosecute wrongdoing at Prasa.

    Finally: in the entire Prasa story, the grubby fingers of the Gupta family are nowhere to be found. The Guptas feature in EVERY other State Capture story. But not Prasa.

    Seems odd, no?

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