News / South Africa

Yadhana Jadoo
3 minute read
5 Jul 2017
5:01 am

Prasa’s Molefe calls for prosecution over costly locomotives blunder

Yadhana Jadoo

The board chair has said 'corrupt forces' were clearly bent on keeping him from discovering the R2.6bn truth.

Vindicated Passenger Rail Authority of SA (Prasa) board chairperson Popo Molefe is calling for all those involved in corrupt procurement deals at the rail giant to be prosecuted and held accountable.

Molefe lashed out yesterday at those who have attacked the state-owned entity’s board, which led the charge to expose the rot within the company.

With his term as chairperson drawing to a close at month-end, Molefe added that it was “quite clear forces linked to those corrupt procurements” wanted to prevent the board from “going deeper into the investigations”.

This follows a scathing high court judgment in favour of Prasa this week, setting aside a controversial tender for locomotives worth R2.6 billion deemed “too tall” to operate on local rail infrastructure.

The newly appointed Prasa board had asked the court in 2015 to review and set aside its deal with Swifambo Rail Leasing for the Spanish-built Afro4000 locomotives.

The contract, awarded in 2013, was signed during the now Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi’s term as Prasa board chairperson.

“Whether it was in parliament or anywhere else, there were sustained attacks on this board which gave the impression that people were acting in unison in defence of the corrupt individuals we were investigating,” Molefe told The Citizen.

“We knew from the beginning that a lot had gone wrong with the procurement of the locomotives. And, of course, we have been attacked from all quarters as we were doing our work in investigating this matter.”

He added that it was “very important that all of us as South Africans, civil society, government and state entities should confront corruption” to ensure “resources allocated to benefit the poor are deployed in a manner that achieves its objective”, he said.

Molefe also charged that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) had the information necessary to deal with those responsible, and should therefore conduct obligatory investigations, instead of being compelled to do so.

“We have done a lot of investigations, we have put before the Hawks more than 40 complaints. There are clearly complaints that relate to fraud and corruption, and I would say even racketeering.

“They have the complaints before them, they have the files, they have the information so they have to deal with the individuals.”

If the Hawks “do their work properly”, he said, they should be “able to follow the judgment”.

“The judgment is very clear that the procurement was a massive act of fraudulence. That in many ways the action taken at the time constituted criminal acts – so the police should have dealt with this a long time ago.

“The courts shouldn’t be doing the work for everybody, including unearthing or concluding in their judgment that what has been happening is criminal.”

DA MP Manny De Frietas has said that, with some of the locomotives docked in the depot in Johannesburg, taxpayers should not have to pay for their upkeep, shipping costs back to the Spanish supplier, or penalties.

“This case allows Prasa to claim the money from Swifambo, who have to go back to those who built the trains and recoup from there. It’s not Prasa’s problem. They must claim back the money and it would eventually go back into coffers of taxpayers.”

Attempts to get hold of Swifambo and National Treasury were unsuccessful – yadhanaj@citizen.co.za