Former Prasa CEO in explosive account of state capture moves, kickback hints
Former Passenger Rail Agency SA (Prasa) Group CEO Lucky Montana gave an explosive account of the machinations of state capture on Tuesday, when he appeared before Parliament’s inquiry into Eskom.
Montana gave a 65-page presentation to MPs in which he disputed claims by former transport minister Ben Martins inferring Montana was responsible for irregularities in contracts for locomotives and rolling stock. Montana said it was in fact Martins who introduced him to the Gupta family and to President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane and he fought against pressure to give them free rein on Prasa contracts.
Montana left Prasa under a cloud over reports of procurement irregularities including claims that Prasa bought trains that were above the height specifications used in SA. He said the remarks by Martins, now the deputy minister of public enterprises, were "false, unfair" and disappointing.
"It would appear that in trying to distance himself from the Guptas, comrade Ben Martins mentioned me and said I introduced the Guptas to him and to Prasa. He was trying to distance himself from the Guptas at my expense," said Montana.
His first encounter with Duduzane and the Guptas in 2012 occurred because Martins asked Montana to visit him, he said. In September 2012, while he was still Prasa CEO, Duduzane Zuma and Tony
Gupta propositioned him to award contracts to them, hinting at kickbacks. He said the meeting took place before he travelled to Berlin on Prasa business. While he was in Germany, he received calls from colleagues, notifying him that bidders for the locomotive tender complained of being approached to pay bribes for the contract, he said.
He was put on notice, he said, by Gupta associates that the Cabinet wanted to dispose of the Prasa board and appoint new board members. He resisted this until his last day at Prasa.
There was pressure to pick China South Rail, represented by the Guptas, to supply 600 passenger trains but the trains did not meet the specifications.
"A chap who was with them met with me in Rosebank and told me there was a political view that Prasa’s board be changed and its annual general meeting postponed. I differed with that because changing the Prasa board in the middle of a big tender is asking for trouble."
Martins angered the Guptas, he said, when he did not act swiftly enough to have the board removed. It was only when Martins was replaced by Dipuo Peters as minister that moves were made to adjust the leadership of Prasa, he said.
Salim Essa and Iqbal Sharma were picked to rise to the board of Prasa, he said, and the Guptas wanted Mzwanele Manyi to serve as Prasa chairman. He expressed his misgivings to Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi, who was the Prasa board chairman at the time.
Montana dismissed reports of Prasa procuring trains that were too tall for tunnels as a smear campaign by those seeking business with Prasa through sinister means.
He denied having lawyer Riaan van der Walt buy him a house, saying he actually sold a property to him.