Former Prasa head Popo Molefe is 'disingenuous': Cyril Ramaphosa

Former passenger rail agency chair had many ways to act against graft instead of blaming the ANC top six, state capture inquiry hears

11 August 2021 - 16:51 By mawande amashabalala
President Cyril Ramaphosa appears before the state capture commission on Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appears before the state capture commission on Wednesday.
Image: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa took aim at former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) chairperson Popo Molefe on Wednesday, saying he didn't do his part in dealing with the rot at the agency.

Ramaphosa was testifying at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday. He was put under the spotlight to respond to claims by Molefe that the ANC top six from the 53rd national conference, of which Ramaphosa was deputy president, ignored his cry for help to stop corruption at the embattled rail agency.

Molefe previously told the Zondo commission that he met the ANC national officials some time in July or August 2016 to plead for their support in his efforts to root out graft at Prasa.

Apparently, said Molefe, the ANC leaders at the meeting — Ramaphosa included — promised to get back to him but never did.

Grilled on this, Ramaphosa said it was “disingenuous” of Molefe to have expected the intervention of the ANC top six when he was the chairperson of the Prasa board, and had all sorts of legislated powers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared before the state capture commission of inquiry on August 11 2021. Ramaphosa was testifying in his capacity as president of the country, and his testimony will extend to August 12.

Ramaphosa believes Molefe should have used the available avenues within Prasa to act against individuals he believed were corrupt, instead of expecting interference from Luthuli House on state matters.

For Molefe to go as far as suggesting that the ANC top six “hung him out to dry” was another exaggeration that should be dismissed, as it sought to paint the ANC as having applied a “herd mentality” on Prasa matters, charged a visibly irritated Ramaphosa.  

“The support that he sought in terms of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] was a given. We said 'go ahead', and I find it disingenuous that someone who is a chair of an entity would then say, 'I am powerless and I need your full and total support.'

“And so the question is [whether] he should have gone ahead as the chair of the board. When you chair a board and you find there is malfeasance, your audit committee must act, your risk committee must act, and if it affects your CEO and CFO, your HR committee must act,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said there was little that they as ANC leaders could do to advance Molefe's will when he had all the power in his hands, while they did not.

“When you have appointed a person as a chair, you expect them to be robust in dealing with the challenges they have to deal with — not throw out their hands in the air and say, 'I do not have support.'

“All the instruments are in their hands, from the board charter, the Companies Act, to all the policies in the company. That is where I find it strange that Mr Molefe would seem to be suggesting that he was helpless and needed the support of a higher body.”

Ramaphosa's testimony is continuing.

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