Zuma did not lobby for Lucky Montana's reinstatement: Dipuo Peters contradicts Popo Molefe

22 February 2021 - 14:46
By Mawande AmaShabalala
Former transport minister Dipuo Peters.
Image: Business Day/File photo Former transport minister Dipuo Peters.

Former transport minister Dipuo Peters on Monday defended ex-president Jacob Zuma over allegations by former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) board chairperson Popo Molefe.

This after Molefe in March 2020 claimed at the Zondo commission that Zuma had lobbied for Lucky Montana to be returned as Prasa boss in a meeting that took place on August 2015, a month after Montana had resigned.

According to Molefe, at that meeting, in which Peters was among those in attendance, Zuma had pushed for the board to allow Montana back to Prasa despite him quitting of his own accord.

But Peters, giving her version to the Zondo commission, said Zuma did none of that.

In fact, according to Peters, it was Montana who expressed a wish to return to Prasa during the meeting in question.

The meeting was convened by then minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe after public spats between Molefe and Montana after the latter had left Prasa.

Molefe testified last year that at the eight-hour long meeting, Zuma had instructed the Prasa board to reinstate Montana because of his experience in the sector.

“So the president says, 'This young man [Montana] is very experienced. He is experienced and has the skills the country needs. In my view he should not be lost to the country and some solution must be found to allow him to continue plying his skills in this important organisation'," Molefe said last year in March.

“The solution the president was suggesting was that the decision the board had taken to release Mr Montana [a month before] be reviewed. My response to the president was that I cannot make a commitment in a private meeting on a matter decided upon by the board of control of Prasa, a state organ.

“I said to him, 'Mr Montana did not have a lifetime contract at Prasa and therefore, Mr President, I cannot agree with you but I can convene a board meeting where you can explain what is your problem'.”

Peters has a different version.

“In that meeting I did not get a clear sense from the president that Lucky Montana must go back. It was his [Montana's] wish,” said Peters.

“My own impression was that he submitted his resignation expecting the board to say ‘please do not go’, but they accepted his resignation. Lucky, in his statement, made reference to 'if I am allowed to go back' and I said the board’s decision must be respected.”

If anyone was to blame for any reference to Montana's experience and expertise in rail matters, said Peters, it was her.

This was because when Peters was informed for the first time that Montana wanted to leave Prasa, she expressed a view to Zuma and other political authorities that the ANC cannot keep on training people and letting them join the private sector, only for those individuals to come back via the back door as consultants earning exorbitant fees.

Commission chairperson, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, expressed frustration that this puzzle may never be completed since Zuma has decided to not appear at the commission to state his version.

“It is a pity that Mr Zuma might never respond to this here at the commission,” said Zondo.

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