Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma denied any knowledge of allegations of the ANC’s reported involvement in the Swifambo tender for the procurement of locomotives by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
Zuma was responding to questions in the National Assembly when DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked him in a follow-up question whether the ANC received a “bribe of R80m” to award the procurement of the controversial Afro4000 locomotive to Swifambo Rail Leasing.
News24 earlier reported that the Swifambo paid an amount of R14.3m into the account of a lawyer who had introduced himself as a fundraiser for the ANC.
This transaction by Auswell Mashaba, MD of the Swifambo Rail Leasing, would be the first of several payments totalling R80m that were made by Mashaba to George Sabelo, the ANC-linked lawyer, and Maria Gomes, an Angolan citizen who calls herself a friend of Zuma.
“As ANC president, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Zuma said in response to Maimane’s question.
“The allegations need to be investigated. I know Prasa has done its own internal investigations on the allegations, but I have no idea how far they are.”
Maimane put it to Zuma that Popo Molefe, former chairperson of the now dissolved Prasa board, stated under oath that the ANC as well as certain Prasa officials were the recipients of the said bribe.
The DA leader also wanted to know from Zuma if he instructed ANC MPs who are members of the portfolio committee on transport to make a U-turn on a promised inquiry into the disarray at Prasa.
Zuma said there are already a number of investigations involving Prasa and that he doubted it would be wise to conduct “an inquiry on top of investigations”.
“Would that be the correct thing to do before the outcome of the investigations?” Zuma asked. “We can only decide on the need for the inquiry once the investigations are completed. One of the things is the investigation could go to court. So you may not have the need for any inquiry.”
Prasa has been mired in controversy following allegations of tender irregularities, wasteful expenditure and management problems at company and board level.
Prasa acting CEO Collins Letsoalo was recently fired by the board, following allegations that he hiked his salary by more than 350%. Transport Minister Dipuo Peters dissolved the board shortly thereafter.
An interim board has since been established, chaired by former SA National Roads Agency boss Nazir Ali and including former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers Frans Baleni and Xolile George from the SA Local Government Association.
Meanwhile, the former board members have lodged an urgent application in the high court in Pretoria on Monday to reverse their removal by Peters.
The former board argued that the disbandment could create the perception that the transport minister is seeking to prevent investigations into corruption‚ which are ongoing, and that she is “punishing the board” for its decision to axe Letsoalo.