The National Transport Movement (NTM) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) are extremely perturbed by the failure of the Hawks and NPA to act on allegations of corruption committed in the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which amounts to billions of rands of public funds.
The PRASA Board is reportedly investigating 142 contracts worth R24 billion for possible corruption. Yet the Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi has now written to the Board’s members terminating their membership, which is clearly a political maneuver to not only frustrate the Board but to stop it from holding those corrupt accountable. The so called ‘independent’ police agency which should be fighting corruption has frustrated the Board in its attempt to get those responsible to face the full might of the law by just refusing to act, notwithstanding mounting evidence in its possession.
The NTM and SAFTU wish to remind the public that many of these contracts were first questioned by the then President of the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), Ephraime Mphahlele, who blew the whistle on corruption when many were not aware of the extent of pillaging now being exposed by the Gupta leaks.
SATAWU opened a criminal case against Lucky Montana and his accomplices in March 2012. Up to date, the police have refused to act and have been sending the union from pillar to post.
The now deported SATAWU General Secretary, Zenzo Mahlangu, who was allegedly heavily implicated in this corruption, together with his former Deputy, Nicholas Maziya, purged everyone opposing corruption inside the unions and in PRASA and used employers to get rid of those exposing corruption and all of the whistle-blowers.
PRASA shop stewards, and President Ephraime Mphahlele himself were targeted through persecution, dismissals and suspension by the employers and the union itself. 700 workers were dismissed and are currently appealing against these dismissals.
SATAWU also then dropped its charges against PRASA and the Hawks failed to act on the case. This led to the formation of the NTM, which broke away from SATAWU in 2012. Since then it has been combating maladministration and corruption at PRASA and reported the corruption allegations to the Public Protector’s office. NTM also laid criminal charges at Hillbrow Police Station against former PRASA chief executive Lucky Montana in 2015 to press for repayments of money allegedly misappropriated during his tenure.
COSATU was informed about this by Comrade Mphahlele but unfortunately this happened at the time when the crisis of divisions within the federation was developing. Zwelinzima Vavi who was against this corruption became the instant enemy of both SATAWU national office bearers and others in COSATU, after he handed over the files received from Ephraime Mphahlele and PRASA shop stewards. These files showed the link between the paralysis of SATAWU and the growing corruption of some amongst its leaders.
The Public Protector then published a report containing 35 allegations of irregular or improper awarding of contracts without following proper procurement processes. NTM wrote to the PRASA board, urging the executives to take action against present and former employees implicated in the wasteful expenditure cited in Thuli Madonsela’s findings. The NTM also impressed on the PRASA board the importance of not only suspending but nullifying the irregular tenders awarded during Montana’s tenure, in order to send a strong message that corruption cannot be condoned. We are still shocked by the fact that these charges have not been followed up by the police and the courts.
The previous minister, Dipuo Peters tried to stop the investigations into the charges by illegally dissolving the board earlier this year, but was overruled by the North Gauteng High Court which declared that her decision was “irrational, plainly unlawful and must be set aside”.
President Zuma then appointed former PRASA chairman Sifiso Buthelezi to be a Deputy Minister of Finance, despite the fact that he was implicated in the Public Protector’s report on corrupt activities in PRASA of which he was the Board Chairman at the time the alleged corrupt activities were happening under his leadership.
The current minister of transport, Joe Maswanganyi, is now yet again seeking to dissolve the current board of PRASA and stop forensic investigators from continuing and uncovering more rot over and above the embarrassing corporate rot already uncovered thus far.
The whole procurement of the new trains by PRASA for instance has also been riddled with corruption. The value of corruption in PRASA by far exceeds the arms deal corruption and should therefore not be left unchallenged.
The minister has written to the Board Chairperson, Popo Molefe, saying he wants to dissolve the board and gave its members seven days to provide reasons as to why he should allow them to stay in office, even though Molefe has only five more weeks in office. This shows his eagerness to dissolve the board and disrupt progress on the investigations. Molefe claims that “They don’t want to deal with major criminal offences. We’ve given them forensic capacity so that they can analyse the information, and we want them to tell us what they have done about these matters.”
These are desperate political shenanigans on the part of the Zuma regime to frustrate the investigations and cover up corruption. We are concerned that the former and new ministers want to get rid of the PRASA board for the sole purpose of covering up acts of corruption exposed by both the Public Protector’s report, PRASA Board investigations and now the Gupta leaks.
It is difficult ignore the fact that those who are implicated seem to enjoy political cover, and changing goal posts as they are politically connected to the regime and the ruling party.
There is no way that one can talk about corruption activities at PRASA and exclude NTM as it is at the centre of anti-corruption campaign at PRASA. In fact NTM is the main complainant in this matter.
The allegations we raised at the office of the Public Protector were accurate. We are however appalled by the inordinate delay on the part of the Hawks and the NPA in terms of their respective failures to arrest the culprits and bring them to book.
NTM and SAFTU demand that the Board must be allowed to finish its work and that the Hawks and the NPA who appear to be politically captured must urgently arrest and bring culprits to book. Should they fail to do so, NTM will embark on sustained mass action until justice is done on these matters. We also demand that the citizenship accorded to the Gupta family must be rescinded and they must be deported back to their country of origin.
The President must resign together with Maswangayi and Deputy Finance Minister, Buthelezi. Workers and members of civil society must sit in the new boards of all parastatals.
Katlego Seboko: 079 065 8841
SAFTU Acting Spokesperson
Patrick Craven: 061 636 6057