Transnet chair Popo Molefe set to take the stand at state capture inquiry

Transnet chairperson Popo Molefe is set to give evidence before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday, as the inquiry turns its attention to probing allegations of fraud, corruption and kickbacks at the state-run freight rail group.  

Molefe is the sole witness expected to give evidence on Tuesday, according to the commission's spokesperson Mbuyiselo Stemela. 

Since his appointment in May 2018, Molefe and the group's new board have said they are working to clean up the state-owned enterprise. In December 2018 Molefe told Fin24 that “the tentacles of state capture and the claws of corruption run deep” adding it was hard to say when the rot would be eradicated.

In total, 13 witnesses are set to testify over the next two weeks in two separate phases.

The first phase will cover reports of procurement irregularities at Transnet, including the work produced by MNS Attorneys and Werksmans about the ballooning cost of the procurement of 1 064 locomotives. 

The second phase will probe claims of fraud and corruption in the acquisition of ship-to-shore cranes.

Damning findings 

The MNS report, made public in June 2018, fingered senior executives for participating in irregular conduct as the cost to buy the locomotives jumped from R38.6bn to R54bn. The tender also allegedly allowed Gupta-linked companies score vast amounts in kickbacks.

Following the report, summons were served on former executives including ex-CEOs Siyabonga Gama and Brian Molefe, as well as former chief financial officer Anoj Singh, in a bid to recoup funds.

Evidence leader Advocate Mahlape Sello said on Monday that Regiments Capital, also linked to the Gupta family, was only entitled to R15m of the R189m paid to it by Transnet for providing transaction advisory services. Court papers filed in November 2018 in the South Gauteng High Court said Gama, Singh and two other officials played a central role in facilitating the unjustifiable payment.

The Guptas have previously denied any involvement in wrongdoing. 

The second phase of the inquiry will deal with fraud and corruption in the acquisition of ship-to-shore cranes. Sello said the Transnet session of the commission will delve into a total of 17 documents which run to 26 931 pages.

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