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Politics

ANC kickback allegations take centre stage at State Capture Inquiry

Popo Molefe.

PRETORIA, South Africa – The Zondo commission into State Capture has heard about claims that the ANC may have benefitted from an irregular tender awarded by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in 2013.

Former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe continued testifying at the commission on Tuesday. Molefe has been giving evidence related to corruption he witnessed while he headed up the state-owned enterprise’s board between 2014 and 2017.

On Tuesday he focused his evidence on claims, which had already circulated in the media since 2016, that the ANC had allegedly benefited from kickback payments from a company called Swifambo Rail Leasing. Swifambo had been awarded a R3.5 billion contract to supply locomotives to Prasa in 2013.

Molefe detailed how he had met with a businessman Auswell Mashaba, who was a director at Swifambo, at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton in 2015.
Mashaba had concerns that an investigation being conducted by Prasa would affect his assets.
Mashaba confessed to Molefe that he had facilitated payments to a company called Similex at the behest of an Angolan businesswoman Maria Gomes.

Gomes had allegedly forwarded the payments to the “movement” which has been interpreted by Mashaba as being the ANC, although Molefe said there was no evidence to state whether the payments did go to the governing party.

Mashaba said the payments he forwarded had been made in cash and electronically.

When the revelations were first reported in 2016, the ANC denied ever receiving the money.

Molefe had also told the commission that an investigation into corruption at Prasa had also uncovered an email exchange between former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana and Gomes.

The emails appear to show Montana sharing details about two railway projects worth billions of rands that Prasa was set to begin.

Molefe said what was concerning about the emails was that Montana was sharing confidential Prasa information with Gomes, whose company was not in business with Prasa.

Molefe also told the inquiry that his board had written to the Hawks asking the organisation to expedite cases opened about corruption at Prasa which included the Swifmabo contract – the High Court had found that the contract was irregularly awarded.

Molefe and his board had even approached the High Court to force the Hawks to look into the matter. Molefe’s other pleas to Parliament and the ANC were ignored, the commission heard on Monday.

The former board chairperson’s revelations shocked commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zondo opined during proceedings about his concerns over what seemed like a lack of action from the ANC, Parliament and the Hawks on investigating corruption allegations that were reported by Molefe.

“The impression one gets is that you have a government that says it is committed to fighting corruption, but here are cases from Prasa, but nobody comes up to say that the board has been dismissed and let’s investigate these cases,” Zondo said.

“The president ought to have been interested in the matter and said what is happening? Why are people not doing what they obviously supposed to do? cabinet must be interested in these things, along with Parliament and the ANC. Are they displaying the commitment, is that commitment manifested in how people conduct themselves in performing their jobs?”

Molefe has concluded his evidence.

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