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Stolen Eastern Cape train tracks derail former PRASA boss

Swartz stands accused of ordering the removal of Transnet train tracks between Elliot and Ugie in the Eastern Cape.


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Former acting CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Mthuthuzeli Swartz, has been arrested on charges of fraud and money laundering.

The case stems back to a number of dubious incidents which occurred in 2012 and 2013 – incidents which involved the theft of 200 tons of steel rail track in the Eastern Cape. Naturally, the Transnet Investigating Unit got involved – attempting to track down the missing rails, and bring the culprits to book.

After numerous twists and turns, the investigative unit locked onto a solid lead. The team of investigators found the stolen steel – loaded up in Durban’s container port ready to be exported. The question remained – how did 200 tons of Transnet steel track find its way up to Durban?

The evidence against Mthuthuzeli Swartz

According to Sonja Carstens, the media liaison and communication officer for the United National Transport Union (UNTU), who divulged details of the case in an interview on 702 Talk Radio, Swartz came onto the radar after being thrown under the proverbial train by middlemen he had allegedly hired.

Despite being under investigation, Swartz was later appointed acting CEO of PRASA Rail – raising more than a few eyebrows from colleagues and other senior executives. Swartz’s tenure came to an abrupt end in April 2018 – his arrest would come less than a year later.

Swartz stands accused of ordering the removal of Transnet train tracks between Elliot and Ugie – stolen steel which was expected fetch a handsome sum of R16 million. Carstens explained the complexities of the case, saying:

Swartz’s defence

“It was 200 tons of railway tracks – cut up in pieces of six metres each – each piece (weighing) 40 kilograms. It was worth about R16 million. They (Transnet Investigating Unit) found the middle man and all fingers pointed at Mr Swartz.”

Mthuthuzeli Swartz, who is currently out on R2000 bail, has vehemently denied the accusations. His defence is a simple one; the former PRASA boss says that his signature, endorsing the removal of railway tracks, was forged. The letter, which will undoubtedly form part of the State’s evidence against Swartz, takes the form of an official PRASA letterhead.

The case against Swartz will resume on 27 February.