Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Zondo calls for inquiry into why Prasa was allowed to ‘side into almost total ruin’

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo believes that the inquiry will uncover more corruption and wrongdoing at Prasa.

The State Capture Commission has called for a special commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption at the embattled Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

In his final instalment of the state capture report, handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday evening at the Union Buildings, commission chair, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo devoted around 250 pages of the final report to wrongdoing at Prasa.

He made damning findings against the rail agency’s former senior executives, in particular former chief executive officer (CEO) Lucky Montana, and the African National Congress (ANC) for its inaction in dealing with tender irregularities and wide-scale corruption at the rail agency.

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Despite hearing extensive evidence on Prasa’s affairs, Zondo said the special commission of inquiry would uncover more corruption and wrongdoing at the struggling parastatal.

“Many, many days of the commission’s hearings were devoted to allegations of the capture of Prasa and strident denials thereof, especially by Mr Montana. However, I am left with the uneasy perception that there is much about the ills at Prasa that has not yet been uncovered,” he said.

 “I worry that if I do not make a general recommendation about these matters, it is unlikely that Prasa will recover.”

The chief justice said the proposed commission of inquiry should be appointed to examine specially the following matters: “why Prasa was allowed to side into almost total ruin, who should be held responsible for that and who could have benefitted from those unacceptable state of affairs.”

Where was the ANC and Parliament?

Zondo lashed out at the ANC, former transport ministers and Parliament for abandoning Prasa’s board that was chaired by Popo Molefe when it tried to fight back against corruption at the agency.

“The evidence has revealed, quite clearly, that neither the ANC leadership, the national executive, nor the Portfolio Committee on Transport wanted to assist this board in its fight against corruption at Prasa.” 

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Zondo further recommended that Ramaphosa should take steps to ensure that the Hawks speed up their investigations into Swifambo Rail Leasing and Siyangena Technologies, which were irregularly awarded multibillion-rand contracts by Prasa for locomotives and security, respectively.

“The NDPPP [National Director of Public Prosecutions, advocate Shamila Batohi] immediately appoints a team to oversee the investigations and the prosecutions of those suspected of committing criminal offences in respect of wrongdoing at Prasa.”

Criminal prosecutions

In deciding which individuals and companies to investigate, the chief justice said the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should have due regard to the evidence led at the commission on Prasa’s affairs.

Zondo called on the NPA to give “serious consideration” to prosecuting Prasa’s former senior executives: CEO Lucky Montana, the agency’s disgraced former head of engineering service, Daniel Mthimkhulu, and chief procurement officer Chris Mbatha.

He also recommended that the NPA should consider instituting prosecutions against Prasa’s former board members who approved the irregular contracts awarded to Swifambo and Siyangena.

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