R51bn train tender has interesting beneficiaries

Picture: Liza van Deventer
Picture: Liza van Deventer

Johannesburg - The son of one of President Jacob Zuma’s closest allies, one of politician Peter Mokaba’s former bodyguards and a former Israeli spy boss are all beneficiaries of or involved in the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) R51bn tender for new train coaches.

Last week, City Press’ sister paper, Rapport, reported that the tender was on the verge of derailment because French company Alstom – which owns a majority stake in the Gibela Rail Transport Consortium, which was awarded the contract – is struggling to stick to the tender’s requirements regarding the use of locally manufactured parts.

Alstom has already built the first coaches in Brazil.

The company’s empowerment partners may have good connections but not significant experience in the railway industry, analysts say.

Some of these partners are:

. Thalente Myeni, son of Dudu Myeni, chairperson of SAA and the Jacob Zuma Foundation. Thalente is the sole shareholder of Dimadox, a shelf company that has shares in New Africa Rail (NAR).

NAR is Alstom’s empowerment partner in the Prasa tender. When Dimadox’s shares were transferred to Myeni in February 2012, he used the Zuma’s home address in Forest Town, Johannesburg, for the transaction. Despite repeated efforts, Myeni could not be tracked down for comment.

. Monde Africa and Sesinyi Seopela, NAR directors and shareholders. Africa has been described in reports as a business tycoon with close ties to the ANC. He attends Cabinet ministers’ birthday parties. Seopela was late ANC Youth League leader Peter Mokaba’s bodyguard. Neither responded to requests for comment.

. Meir Gershuni, a former senior official in the Israeli intelligence and security services. According to his profile on private security company Axiom’s website, Gershuni “recently retired from the Israel Security Agency and is the former director of the Israeli Foreign Service’s Security Bureau”.

Gershuni is a director of the Swiss company Maydex, which has shares in the locally registered Maydex SA. The latter is also a shareholder in NAR, Alstom’s empowerment partner.

Gershuni did not respond to questions.

. Pearl Zuma, a distant cousin of President Zuma, who is the sole director of Nonhle Investments, which is a shareholder in Khiphunyawo Rail.

The latter is part of the Ubumbano group, alongside Alstom and NAR, the other main shareholder in the Gibela consortium. Pearl Zuma said she had never met the president and said her name played no part whatsoever in her inclusion in the tender.

Prasa maintains all the empowerment partners were appointed through a “strict, fair, competitive and transparent” tender process and were a mix of black-owned companies already involved in the rail industry, black-owned companies looking to enter this industry and black-owned investment companies.

“The inference that Khiphunyawo Rail was chosen on the grounds of the relationship of one of its shareholders [Pearl Zuma] with political figures is rejected with the contempt it deserves,” said Prasa spokesperson Moffet Mofokeng.

He said every empowerment partner’s bid was evaluated by independent transaction advisers who “were not aware of the applicants’ alleged political ties”.

Alstom appointed NAR as its empowerment partner in a separate process to the one in which the other black economic empowerment partners were appointed, said Gibela spokesperson Pamella Radebe.

Radebe said the goal of appointing NAR was to facilitate the entry of new players in the railway industry as part of attempts to revive the local industry. She said Alstom was comfortable with the process it followed in appointing NAR.

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