'Martins introduced me to Guptas' - Montana
Former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana says former deputy minister introduced him to Guptas and Duduzane Zuma
Former Passenger Rail Agency SA Group CEO Lucky Montana gave an explosive account of the machinations of state capture when he appeared before Parliament’s inquiry into Eskom on Tuesday.
Montana gave a 65-page presentation to Members of Parliament where he disputed claims by MP and former minister of transport Ben Martins in which he inferred that Montana was responsible for alleged irregularities in its major contracts for locomotive and rolling stock.
Montana said it was, in fact, Martins that introduced him to the Gupta family and to President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma and that he fought against pressure to give them free reign on Prasa contracts.
Montana left Prasa on a low, over reports of procurement irregularities, including claims that Prasa procured trains whose height were above the height of specification for use in SA. He said Martins’ remarks were “false, unfair and disappointing”.
“It would appear that in trying to distance himself from the Guptas, comrade Ben Martins mentioned be and said I introduced the Guptas to him and to Prasa. He was trying to distance himself from the Guptas at my expense,” said Montana.
Montana told MPs that his first encounter with Duduzane and the Guptas in 2012 occurred because Martins asked Montana to visit him. In September of 2012 while he was still Prasa CEO, Duduzane and Tony Gupta propositioned him to award contracts to them, hinting at kickbacks.
He said that meeting took place before he travelled to Berlin, Germany on Prasa business.
He said whilst he was in Germany, he received calls from colleagues notifying him that bidders for the locomotive tender complained of being approached to pay bribes for the contract.
He said he was put on notice by Gupta associates that Cabinet wanted to dispose of the Prasa board and appoint new board members.
He said he resisted this until his last day at Prasa. He said there was pressure to pick China South Rail, represented by the Guptas, as to supply 600 passenger trains but that they did not meet the specifications.
“A chap, who was with them, met with me in Rosebank and told me there was a political view that Prasa’s board be changed and its AGM postponed. I differed with that because changing the Prasa board in the middle of a big tender is asking for trouble,” he said.
He credited Martins saying that he angered the Guptas when he did not act swiftly enough to have the board removed. It was only when Martins was replaced by Dipuo Peters that moves were made to adjust the leadership of Prasa, he said.
He said Salima Essa and Iqbal Sharma were both picked to rise to the board of Prasa and that the Guptas wanted Mzwanele Manyi to serve as Prasa chair. He expressed his misgivings to deputy finance minister Sifiso Buthelezi, who was Prasa board chair at the time.
When inquiry evidence leader Adv Ntuthuzelo Vanara asked him about why Prasa sponsored business breakfasts by The New Age newspaper, Montana said the deal was envisioned to give Prasa an advertising platform which, in reality, never materialised.
He dismissed reports of procuring trains that were too short for tunnels as a smear campaign by those seeking business with Prasa through sinister means. He denied having lawyer Riaan Van Der Walt buy him a house, saying he actually sold a property to him.
Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone asked if Montana had any evidence of these encounters to which Montana referred to his 65 page submission. When she asked if he had ever spoken to Minister of Energy (State Security at the time) David Mahlobo, Montana said he had not.
African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart called the submission “explosive” and lauded Montana for his “frank honesty”.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu called the submission “a far cry from the convenient amnesia” which plagued other witnesses before such a committee. Martins is expected to make a submission to the inquiry on Wednesday morning.