Prasa board chaired by Popo Molefe should have been axed earlier, Dipuo Peters tells Zondo commission

Mawande AmaShabalala Political journalist
Former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe. The board he chaired was dismissed by then transport minister Dipuo Peters in March 2017. File photo.
Former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe. The board he chaired was dismissed by then transport minister Dipuo Peters in March 2017. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Lisa Hnatowicz

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) board that was chaired by Popo Molefe deserved the axe that fell on it in March 2017.

That is the view of former transport minister Dipuo Peters who removed the Prasa board at the time.

Testifying at the state capture inquiry on Monday, Peters said she should have dismissed that board much earlier.

Her decision to remove the board was reversed by the courts a month later, when Peters was no longer minister after the axe fell on her in then president Jacob Zuma’s final cabinet reshuffle.

Peters said she would have appealed the court decision had she still been in office, as the call to reinstate the board was based on a technicality.

Peters said the Prasa board led by Molefe disrespected her as they did not respond to any correspondence.  

Molefe and company, she said, should carry the blame for the astronomical rise in expenditure at the state-owned company between 2013 and 2018. During those five financial years, Prasa’s irregular expenditure skyrocketed from R100m in 2013 to R24bn five years later.

Peters said Molefe’s board ignored her attempts to stop the rise in irregular expenditure, picked up by audit reports from the office of the auditor-general.

“I still believe in acting against the board of ntate Molefe on March 8 [2017], I was correct,” said Peters.

“For instance, in the first quarter of 2016 the company performed at 60%, second quarter was 40% and the third quarter was 20 or 21%. And those matters were of concern to myself and the portfolio committee.

“I believe that my patience with the board of ntate Molefe was overstretched. My decision to remove that board was long overdue.”

Commission chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo expressed shock at how, for five years running, Prasa’s irregular expenditure was on an upward trajectory but no heads rolled.

According to Zondo, the president, the cabinet, the minister, Prasa's board and the company’s executive all failed taxpayers with their inaction.

“For me it is really shocking that for five financial years, an entity’s irregular expenditure was going up astronomically year in and year out,” Zondo said.

“This should have shocked everybody concerned and somebody should have said this must stop. I ask the question, where were all those people who were supposed to make sure that this did not happen?

“Obviously one must look at [Prasa] management, the board, the minister, the cabinet and the president – especially the president. All concerned must have seen this, [irregular expenditure] was supposed to go down, not up. How could a state entity have these kinds of reports?”

Peters said she attempted to turn the situation around after the 2015-16 financial year. However, her efforts were thwarted by the release of then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s “Derailed” report on Prasa shenanigans.

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