Transport minister informed of Montana's removal

Lucky Montana. Picture: File
Lucky Montana. Picture: File

Johannesburg - Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has been informed of the Prasa board's decision to remove CEO Lucky Montana from his position before his notice period ended, her department said on Thursday.

"The department respects the decision of the board and understands it is carrying out its fiduciary responsibilities," it said in a statement.

"The board has assured the department that it will ensure that the entity remains stable and continues to deliver on its mandate."

The Prasa board announced earlier on Thursday that Montana would not be working the remainder of his notice period, which started on June 1.

"Mr Montana’s last day of employment with the PRASA will accordingly be 15 July 2015," it said.

Montana resigned from Prasa in June and was serving a six-month notice period.

The board said, in the meantime, Autopax acting chief executive and current Prasa COO Nathi Khena would act in Montana's position.

This follows a report earlier this month by Afrikaans weekly Rapport, that South African railway officials imported brand new locomotives from Europe worth hundreds of millions of rand, despite explicit warnings that the trains were not suited for local rail lines.

"In what may be the country's largest and most expensive recent tender blunder the... Prasa has to date received 13 new diesel locomotives that are too high for the long distance routes they were intended for," according to the report.

The 13 Afro 4000 diesel locomotives that have so far been delivered to Prasa are worth R600m and form part of a larger R3.5bn order for 70 new locomotives.

Prasa hit back two days later, saying the locomotives it had acquired were the best in the world, and that they were suited for local tracks.

“We meet the safety standards," said Montana at the time.

"We have bought one of the best locomotives in the world and we are not even apologetic about that."

The Prasa board said it would address the media on Montana's removal on Friday.

The transport ministry and department thanked Montana for the "sterling leadership and guidance he provided during his seven years of service" at Prasa.

'We find it hard to comprehend'

The Democratic Alliance claimed Montana's removal reinforced its call for Peters and the rail agency to come to Parliament and account for so-called scandals.

"The minister has been conspicuous in her absence and has yet to show any leadership in dealing with these allegations as the political head," DA MP Manny de Freitas said in a statement.

"It is high time that she breaks her silence."

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union said it was disturbed by Montana's removal before his notice period had ended.

"We have not been given the full details, but we find it disturbing that he is released," Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu told News24.

"That he doesn't serve notice and is told to go and stay at home and be paid.

"We find it hard to comprehend what has happened. The government does not have endless money to pay chief executives to stay at home."

Mahlangu said processes needed to be followed if there were any transgressions.

The union was disappointed that the discussion on these issues was taking away from the issues relevant to rail transport.

''Whatever happens in the boardroom must not disadvantage the commuter. Service must continue to be provided without interrupting and making personal issues a stumbling block," he said.

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