Popo Molefe lashes out at minister, as PRASA loses its board

Cape Town – Outgoing PRASA chairperson Popo Molefe lashed out at Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi on Monday evening, accusing him of prejudicing the board’s investigation following former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Derailed report.

“The departing board does not believe that the minister has PRASA's best interests, and the interests of the public, at heart,” Molefe said in a statement.  

“The board has thus sent detailed written submissions to the president, the speaker of the national assembly and the public protector in order to highlight its concerns and express its lack of confidence in the independence and ability of the minister to fulfil his statutory mandate.”

Molefe said the outgoing board “successfully completed its tenure, during which significant strides were made, in accordance with the recommendations of the erstwhile Public Protector in her report entitled Derailed, to address long-standing corruption and governance issues at PRASA”.

“To this end, the board instituted and completed significant investigations at PRASA and, consequently, embarked on litigation to unwind unlawful and corrupt transactions.

“The board's efforts have been vindicated most recently by the judgment of Francis J in PRASA v Swifambo Rail Leasing (Pty) Ltd, in terms of which PRASA succeeded in setting aside an unlawful contract amounting to approximately R2.6bn.  

“The board has also taken steps to compel the law enforcement agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, to act against the wrongdoers.”

However, Molefe said the board's successes were achieved “despite the interference and undermining of its activities by the Minister of Transport”.  

Referring to a decision by former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, Molefe said the board overcame the "irrational and unlawful attempt to remove the board in March 2017, successfully instituting urgent proceedings to obtain an order from the High Court reinstating the board, whose members have been unlawfully removed by the erstwhile minister".

President Jacob Zuma replaced Peters with Maswanganyi in his Cabinet reshuffle at the end of March.

However, Molefe said the new minister has continued where Peters left off. “The current minister of transport has, however, continued to attempt to thwart the operations of PRASA and prejudice its attempts to address Derailed.  

“In this regard, the board notes that to date, the new minister has refused to meet with the board; despite repeated requests, the minister has, for months, failed to appoint additional members to the board in terms of his statutory obligations; rather than dealing with the critical substantive issues and supporting the work of the board, Minister notified the board of his intention to remove the Board in June 2017; and the minister has undermined the authority of the board, including its authority to complete its investigations and take steps in addressing corruption at PRASA.

“The current minister’s actions, unfortunately, dovetail with those of his predecessor, who once instructed the board to ‘stop’ the investigations; did not appoint a permanent CEO even after the board had followed all due  processes; and  unlawfully terminated the board’s service prematurely and was rebuked by the court for having done so.”

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