Montana vows to reveal all about Prasa at state capture inquiry, but wants Zondo to step down
Former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Lucky Montana says he is ready to testify before the Zondo commission and “intends to tell the story of the Prasa I know”.
In a statement on Thursday, Montana urged the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, to confirm the dates of his testimony, saying that his submission of his statement to the commission is “an indication of my commitment to co-operate fully with the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector, including other organs of state”.
Montana, who was at the helm of Prasa for about 10 years, said as the founding head of Prasa, he is best placed to provide vital information to the commission to help it to carry out its work.
Montana, who has been a critic of Zondo and labelled him as “lacking a sense of fairness and commitment to justice”, after damning testimonies by former employees of Prasa against him, said his resolve to testify did not take away his criticism of the commission.
He is seeking legal advice on whether to proceed with an application for the recusal of Zondo.
“I still maintain that Deputy Chief Justice Zondo has abandoned the fundamental principles of fairness and justice that underpin our justice system. He is extremely biased, is selective and he is not interested to hear the version of those of us that are accused. He has made up his mind and is pursuing a predetermined outcome. (He) has shown that he will go to great lengths to achieve that outcome.
“At the heart of the commission’s shortcoming is that it does not afford the 'accused' persons an opportunity to tell their story. Their participation is reduced to merely confirming or denying the allegations against them. This does not provide a full picture.”
Previously the commission has heard how Montana ruled with an iron fist and would retaliate against staff members who questioned the legality of tender contracts. Montana was in charge of the state-owned enterprise from 2010 to 2015.
Montana has previously expressed unhappiness with the evidence presented by witnesses at the commission.
Among those is former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe and suspended general manager for legal services Fani Dingiswayo, who testified about allegedly suspicious property purchases conducted by Montana valued at R36m in 2014.
Dingiswayo testified how Montana “ruthlessly abused his power” and crushed anyone standing in his way. He said Montana created a parallel structure at Prasa to advance his personal interests and deal with those who stood in his way.
Among other abuses of power, according to Dingiswayo, Montana had a lawyer who specifically served him in his personal capacity but was on Prasa's payroll.
Furthermore, Prasa employees who dared challenge his authority — mainly from the company's legal division — were pursued by Montana until the exit door.
Dingiswayo, who alleged that Montana had turned Prasa into his personal fiefdom, testified in July that he clashed with Montana after refusing to sign off on a contract Prasa had entered into with a company named Prodigy.
According to him, he refused to sign after picking up irregularities in the contract, worth more than R80m, for training 3,000 Prasa staff in customer service at a rate of R24,000 per learner. His refusal had severe consequences: he was given his marching orders by Montana.
In his latest statement, Montana alleged that he wanted to testify at the commission in July 2019, long before Molefe and others testified.
“The commission is not interested in the information I wish to share, except to limit my testimony to the false allegations levelled against me.
“While some sections of our society are cheering deputy chief justice Zondo on, the cause he is pursuing will have disastrous consequences for our country. While those involved in corruption or any wrongdoing must be held accountable, the commission should not allow itself to serve particular interests and contribute to further deepen the conflict and divisions in our society. The ‘losers’ of this witch-hunt will find a way to come back, laying the basis for future political instability in our society,” Montana said.