Peters irrational when she removed Prasa board - Court

2017-04-10 14:41
Dipuo Peters (File, Daily Sun)

Dipuo Peters (File, Daily Sun)

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Pretoria - Former Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters acted irrationally in removing Prasa's board, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled on Monday.

Judge Peter Mabuse said in a scathing judgment that her decision was unreasonable and disproportionate and he set it aside.

He also set aside her appointment of an interim board, chaired by former Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, and ordered the previous board reinstated.

Peters, who resigned as an MP last week, was ordered to pay the former board's legal costs.

The transport department said it respected the judgment, would study it, and respond in due course.

READ: Axing of Prasa board set aside

Urgent application

Mabuse questioned her motives for removing the board and appointing a new one, despite warnings from former chairperson Popo Molefe's lawyers.

"The fact that initially no reasons were provided and that still no reasons were provided when they were requested on March 9, created the presumption that the decision by the minister was irrational."

Molefe filed an urgent application for the court to declare the board's dissolution unlawful, reinstate the board, and prevent an interim board from being appointed.

The decision to issue notices of removal and remove the board was "plainly unlawful and must be set aside" to prevent irremediable damage, uphold legality, and vindicate public interest, Molefe had argued.

Mabuse said Peters' explanation for her conduct was internally inconsistent and irrational. He found irrationality in her decision to terminate former group CEO Collins Letsoalo's secondment to Prasa.

On the other hand, Mabuse said Peters accepted Letsoalo's version, of the dispute between him and the board.

"She then used the dispute as the springboard to remove the relevant directors from office. Those two decisions cannot be married with each other. She claims she was forced to remove the board once Letsoalo was no longer in office because it would operate unchecked.

"This is a suggestion that the minister was happy to allow the board, that was potentially guilty of misconduct or mismanagement, to remain in the office for as long as it was supervised by Letsoalo, or consider their removal to be imperative once he was gone."

Unlawful conduct

On February 27, the Prasa board unanimously voted to dismiss Letsoalo after the Sunday Times reported that he increased his salary from R1.7m to R5.9m per annum in October. Peters dissolved the board on March 8. On March 13 she appointed an interim one.

Letsoalo said once he had been seconded to Prasa, he merely inquired about what his salary and allowance would be.

He accused the board members of lying and said they had known of each and every step taken ahead of his appointment, including his salary.

Mabuse said if Peters honestly and genuinely believed there were grounds to remove the board, she was obliged to act on that belief at that time.

That Peters took no steps to discipline the board before the Sunday Times report was published showed there were no grounds to do so, Mabuse said.

The alleged misconduct was raised simply after the fact, in an attempt to justify her unlawful conduct.

Mabuse found that the board's decision to terminate Letsoalo's appointment "plainly" reasonable, given that it had the discretion to do so. Peters should have accepted that the board's decision instead of disciplining it.

"Her decision was accordingly unreasonable on that basis alone. The decision, however, is rendered wholly disproportionate by the fact that the minister appears to have given no consideration to the serious and prejudicial impact of the wholesale removal of the board on Prasa's interest."

Read more on:    prasa  |  dipuo peters  |  popo molefe  |  pretoria  |  judiciary

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