Un-Lucky streak: Dipuo Peters takes rap for dragging feet in appointing new Prasa CEO

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Former Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters
Former Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters
Lisa Hnatowicz/Foto24
  • Dipuo Peters was transport minister from 2013 until her dismissal in 2017 and oversaw 12 state-owned entities, including Prasa.
  • During that time, Prasa was involved in the award of the controversial R3.5 billion "tall trains" contract to Swifambo Rail Leasing, under then-CEO Lucky Montana's watch.
  • Peters appeared before the State Capture Commission to respond to former Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe's allegation that she had interfered in the appointment of a CEO at the rail agency.


Former transport minister Dipuo Peters told the State Capture Commission on Monday that it may have taken too long for beleaguered state-owned rail agency, Prasa, to appoint a permanent CEO after the departure of Lucky Montana.

Peters had been the minister of transport from 2013 until her dismissal in 2017 and oversaw 12 state-owned entities, including Prasa. During that time, Prasa was involved in the awarding of the controversial R3.5 billion "tall trains" contract to Swifambo Rail Leasing, under then-CEO Lucky Montana's watch.

Montana resigned in 2015, before the end of his contact, but had made his intentions known to the Prasa board in 2014. 

On Monday, the commission grilled Peters on why the group only appointed acting CEO, Collins Letsoalo, a year after Montana left, and why a permanent CEO was not appointed. Peters said that a forensic investigation was needed at the agency, following the Auditor General's findings of irregular expenditure. She also cited departmental activities as another reason for the delay.  

"I need to acknowledge the delay in appointing the CEO - I can also take responsibility for that part," Peters said.

She acknowledged that she could have done more in the six months before her dismissal to ensure that a permanent CEO was appointed.

However, the commission's chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was not satisfied with the answer, saying that the process of appointing a new CEO could have begun in 2014 when Montana made his intention to leave known to the board.

"I want to suggest to you that both you and Mr [Popo] Molefe [former Prasa chairperson] knew by the end of 2014, the previous year, that Mr Montana's contract was going to come to an end. Therefore, between that time at the latest, you ought to have been occupying yourselves with preparations relating to finding the new CEO," said Zondo. 

Montana bluffing?

Earlier in the day, she told the commission that Montana had been bluffing when he resigned in 2015 and was under the impression that the board would ask him to stay on. He then began lobbying for his return after the board accepted his resignation.

His lobbying culminated in a meeting with former president Jacob Zuma, which was convened by then-minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe with Peters and Molefe, among those in attendance. Molefe has previously told the commission that he left the meeting feeling like Zuma was interfering in Prasa's affairs and pushing for Montana's return.

However, Peters dismissed that, saying that the meeting, which had dragged on for hours, ending at 02:00, did not have a conclusion, nor did it have an agenda or minutes. However, it was clear in Montana's two-hour long address to the meeting that he was trying to justify why he should be allowed to return to the rail agency.

But the meeting ended abruptly and without a view from Zuma after he fell asleep.

Peters' testimony will continue on Tuesday. She is appearing before the commission to respond to Molefe's allegation that she had interfered in the process of Prasa's appointment of a CEO.

She added that she never protected or sought to protect anyone accused of wrongdoing. Peters also said she wasn't involved in any irregular tenders awards because that was not part of her "culture" or "style of work".

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