Cape Town - Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana’s testimony at the Eskom Inquiry has opened up the debate about whether the portfolio committee on transport should hold its own inquiry.
Montana told the portfolio committee on public enterprises on Tuesday that he wanted to bring forward his testimony to help it do its work.
He was appearing to give his version of events after Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Martins suggested at a press briefing in November 2017 that he was the one who arranged a meeting between Martins, Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma.
“This is a man I have huge respect for, I could not believe at media briefing he tried to protect his own name at my expense,” said Montana. He explained he was testifying to set the record straight.
“In September 2012 I met with the honourable Ben Martins. He invited me to his ministerial house in Pretoria. I went to meet him at the time he was minister of transport,” said Montana. After having tea, Montana said Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma joined the meeting, he had never met them before.
It was revealed that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss board appointments at Prasa.
According to Montana, after the Gupta’s failed to secure a tender for China South Rail, the Guptas tried to dissolve the board, and have Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi on the board instead. They did not succeed in this attempt. “The Guptas wanted to change the board, they were defeated,” he said.
Montana explained that several others had tried to influence procurement at the rail company, including black business representatives and international companies.
Former minister of transport Dipuo Peters and former ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize were behind the Prasa board of 2014, where Popo Molefe was appointed chair, he said. Montana explained that Peters wanted Prasa to cancel or delay the procurement process at the time. Montana refused as that would have collapsed Metrorail, he said.
Montana emphasised that the procurement was necessary and that the trains were a necessary investment for the country.
He also said he suffered attacks on his life, on one occasion an old apartheid security officer had followed him to his home, he had to defend himself with a firearm, which Prasa later tried to repossess from him.
EFF MP Floyd Shivambu, who is also a member of the committee, said that Montana raised issues in his testimony which would warrant a similar inquiry by the portfolio committee of transport.
During his testimony Montana said he was “emotionally invested” in the matter as he was involved in the restructuring of SOEs, including Eskom and Transnet.
He said that as the committee performs a “clean-up” of state-owned enterprises (SOE), it should also acknowledge the major successes of SOEs. “Let us build on successes as we clean.”
“I think it is important to look at the work of Eskom, not only the side of stealing resources, but build on the successes as it were,” he said. “Not everything we have done since 1994 was bad.”
He added that what has happened with the Guptas shows how things can go “horribly wrong”. “Each one of us must look in the mirror. Are we honest with ourselves? Are we building a future for our children and grandchildren?”
He also affirmed his love for South Africa and said that he had no plans on leaving. “I love it here. I am not going anywhere.”
Responding to a question on what can be done to strengthen state entities, he said government needs to tighten the appointments of boards. “The process can enhance the company or destroy it, it can make or break it.”
It's happening in many entities and Eskom is one of them, said Montana.
He also highlighted that South Africa is not protecting its people and the skills they have. “SA lost railway skills in the 1980s.”
He said the metro rail system would not last long, and this needs to be addressed. He said he is willing to assist the department of transport, even though previous colleagues stabbed him in the back after Molefe took over as chair at Prasa.
“I will be willing to use what this country has given to me, without incentives.”
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