Neels Blom Writer at large
Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana. Picture: MAKWENA MANAMELA
Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana. Picture: MAKWENA MANAMELA

New evidence has emerged which must be included in the police investigation of charges against Lucky Montana, the former CEO of state-owned rail agency Prasa.

The new evidence implicates a former friend and colleague of Montana, Makhensa Mabunda, DA shadow transport minister Manny de Freitas said on Monday. The party alleges that Makhensa received kickbacks of R75m to secure the deal. This meant that Lucky Montana "presided over a more extensive corrupt network at the parastatal during his tenure than initially thought", De Freitas said.

Earlier on Monday, News24 reported that Vossloh España failed to disclose payments of more than R75m to a consulting firm S-Investments. Its only director is Mabunda. The report quoted Stadler Rail spokesperson Marina Winder as denying that a R7m payment existed.

De Freitas said the new evidence on corrupt activities at Prasa under Montana emphasised the lack of progress into investigations on state capture at the entity.

Since the release of a report entitled "Derailed" by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in 2015, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi and Prasa have brought the recommended investigations to a halt, he said.

"It has become untenable for our law enforcement agencies to continue turning a blind eye to this mounting evidence of corruption at Prasa under Lucky Montana," he said. "It is a continuing mess. The flouted tender procedures showed it was a rush job done on an emergency basis, for which there was no call. There are no checks and balances (in place at Prasa)," he said.

In July 2017, the High Court in Johannesburg found that the locomotive tender had been rigged and specifically designed to favour Swifambo Rail Leasing and its partner‚ Spanish locomotive manufacturer Vossloh España (now Stadler Rail Valencia). Prasa chairman Popo Molefe said after the court ruling that the agency would do everything in its power to recover the money paid to Swifambo.

In September 2016 and again in December 2017, the DA laid charges against Montana, alleging that bribes had been paid to help Swifambo Rail Leasing and its joint venture partner Vossloh España secure the controversial R2.65bn Afro4000 Locomotive tender awarded in 2014. The locomotives were subsequently found to be unsuitable for SA’s rail network.

The agency then replaced Montana with an acting CEO, Cromet Molepo, late in 2017. Molepo was suspended as CEO of Umgeni Water in 2001 following allegations of financial misconduct, according to a statement by the then-chairman Omar Latiff. Molepo denied that he was suspended, saying he chose to resign.

On January 5, Prasa appointed yet another replacement, Mthuthuzeli Swartz, as acting CEO. Swartz is under investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct and corruption.

Prasa had not responded to questions from Business Day at the time of publication.

© Business Day

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