5 Prasa bombshells Lucky Montana dropped at #EskomInquiry

Axed Prasa CEO, Lucky Montana. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo
Axed Prasa CEO, Lucky Montana. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo

Cape Town – Lucky Montana, former CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), appeared before the portfolio committee on public enterprises on Tuesday, in an effort to “set the record straight” and help the inquiry do its work.

In a 65-page submission, Montana described how the Guptas and even ANC officials tried to influence the rail company. He said he has witnesses and documents as proof, and that if anyone wants to contest his testimony they should approach the inquiry.

Fin24 compiled a list of the five main items you need to know from Montana’s testimony.

1. Ben Martins tried to smear his name

One of the main reasons Montana appeared before the inquiry was to clarify that Martins had introduced him to Rajesh (Tony) Gupta and the president’s son Duduzane Zuma in September 2012, and not the other way around as was implied by Martins at a previous briefing on November 9 2017.

“In his attempt to clear his name and distance himself from the Gupta family, Deputy Minister Ben Martins stated during the media briefing that he had met members of the Gupta family on a few occasions.

“To my surprise, Deputy Minister Martins further stated that one such occasion was when he met members of the Gupta family with Lucky Montana. I got the distinct impression that Deputy Minister Martins wanted to create the impression that I brought members of the Gupta family to him,” he told the portfolio committee.

Montana went on to describe his relationship with Martins, which extends a far back as 1996, when he met Martins in Parliament.

“I have no doubt that he is committed to serving the people of South Africa. This is the man who lives for the arts. He would invite me during weekends when he visited art galleries.

“He would teach me about paintings, the ideas behind them and the artists behind these. As you may be aware, he writes and publishes poems. This is a man I have huge respect for,” he said.

“I could however not believe it when I heard what he said at the media briefing. I felt strongly that Deputy Minister Ben Martins was trying to protect his own name at my expense.

2. How the Guptas tried to dissolve the Prasa board

According to Montana’s version of events, in September 2012 he was to go to Berlin to attend a railway exhibition and conference. The night before he was supposed to leave he met with Martins at his home in Pretoria; thereafter Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma had joined them. 

“The minister had introduced them to me and informed me they had expressed an interest in the Prasa Rolling Stock Fleet Renewal Programme,” he said.

Montana said he would be willing to meet with them upon his return from Berlin. However, while he was in Berlin he was approached by representatives of rolling stock manufacturers, saying they had been approached by representatives of the Gupta family.

“The Guptas were extorting money from manufacturers and had wanted this money paid into some account in Dubai and stated they were working for President JG Zuma, Minister Ben Martins and Lucky Montana,” according to his written submission.

The manufacturers had met Gupta business associate Salim Essa in Zurich, where they were told that they would have to pay money to be part of the Prasa new build programme, explained Montana.

This angered Montana and he requested a second meeting with Martins, Duduzane and Tony. An unnamed Indian gentleman had also attended the meeting. Montana said he spent an hour expressing his anger. “I made it clear that what they were doing was unlawful and that they could not collect monies in our names.”

After disagreements, they decided not to make demands on rolling stock manufacturers. Tony Gupta informed Montana that the unnamed Indian gentleman would be in contact with him regarding work with China South Rail.

Montana said he was given a cellphone with which to contact him, but had given it away. The unnamed Indian man had contacted Montana at a later stage and provided him with Salim Essa and Iqbal Sharma’s CV, with the intention that they be appointed to the Bid Evaluation Committee for the rolling stock tender.

Montana said he complained to Martins about this. China South Rail eventually lost the tender. The Guptas tried to dissolve the Prasa board, and tried to get Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi as chair.

But Martins had defended the board.

3. Everyone wants a piece of Prasa

During his testimony Montana said that the Gupta family were not the only ones who attempted to secure tenders at Prasa. Black businesses which had entered into agreements with international rolling stock companies also wanted an in at the state rail company, but were unhappy with Prasa’s decision to appoint a 30% BBBEE partner for the Rolling Stock tender.

“Prasa gave the Original Equipment Manufacturers the right to find their own black partners for 70% of the transaction but (said) that this would not be credited. Prasa insisted that only the 30% BBBEE partners would be credited but these would be selected through an open, transparent and competitive process,” Montana explained in his written submission.

“This was to prevent politically connected individuals or groupings from either fronting or manipulating the process.”

In turn, international rolling stock manufacturers also wanted to secure tenders. “They maneuvered (sic), played one player against the other and tried to manipulate, if not blackmail, existing local industry players to lower their prices.”

But Montana said that former transport minister Dipuo Peters and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize had managed to find a way in through the appointment of a new Prasa board in August 2014.

4. How the ANC tried to influence the Prasa tenders

In his written submission, Montana explained how in March 2014 Peters convened a meeting in Cape Town with the chairs and CEOs of the public entities which reported to her department to discuss corporate plans, budgets and deliverables for the 2014/15 financial year.

The minister was interested in Prasa’s rolling stock fleet renewal programme. At another meeting in April 2014, with Montana and former chair Sfiso Buthelezi and group executive for strategic asset development Piet Sebola, Peters requested that Prasa cancel a tender awarded to Gibela Rail Consortium.  After refusing, Montana said that Peters threatened to change Prasa’s board and would appoint Popo Molefe as chair.

Montana also said that Mkhize had demanded that 10% of R465m of the first payment which was due to Swifambo Rail Leasing be paid to him. Montana said that he had rejected this demand.

Montana concluded that Peters and Mkhize were behind the appointment of the new Prasa board in August 2014.

He added that the ANC tried to influence other tenders, and that he was approached by ANC head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana to support a company bidding for a security tender at Prasa.

5. Montana under attack

While he was Prasa chair, Popo Molefe had appointed Werksmans Attorneys to conduct a forensic investigation into contracts to uncover corruption. This required surveillance of certain individuals, including himself.

According to Molefe his home was broken into three times. Only computers and memory sticks were stolen, while other valuables were left behind.

Montana said he had to protect himself and his family. He used a firearm, which Prasa had issued to him previously. Prasa later tried to repossess this firearm.

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