Prasa train

Photo: GCIS

State Capture: Complaint to be laid against Prasa-linked businessman

The State Capture Commission is zeroing in on Swifambo Rail Leasing, a company which bagged a lucrative tender with Prasa, which was later declared invalid

Prasa train

Photo: GCIS

The State Capture Commission intends laying a criminal complaint against Auswell Mashaba, the director of Swifambo Rail Leasing, after he was a no show at proceedings.

Mashaba was scheduled to appear before the commission and give evidence related to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) on Wednesday, 24 February 2021.

The commission’s evidence leader Advocate Vas Soni had told the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday that Mashaba would not be appearing.

Zondo then pointed out that the letter was sent not too long after former president Jacob Zuma had also refused to appear before the commission.

”Just like Mr Zuma’s attorneys, Mr Mashaba’s attorneys did not substantiate their contention that the summons was defective. They didn’t say what the grounds were for them saying the summons was defective and said that Mr Mashaba would not comply with the summons tomorrow,” the chairperson said.

However on the day Mashaba was set to take the stand, Soni confirmed indeed that the controversial businessman would not be appearing, saying the summons he had received to appear was unlawful and not binding.

“In closing, we confirm on record that our client will not be appearing at the commission today, and more particularly for the reason that our client does not accept that the document constitutes a lawful and legally binding summons,” Mashaba’s legal team said in a letter which Soni read out.

Swifambo Rail and Prasa: What’s the relation?

Swifambo Rail Leasing had scored a R3.5 billion tender to do work with Prasa in 2013. The company was contracted to provide 70 locomotives, however managed to only supply 13 of them. As if that wasn’t enough, it was found that the locomotives weren’t even suitable for Prasa’s rail network.

Then Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe subsequently launched a court bid to have the agency’s contract with Swifambo set aside and declared invalid and the South Gauteng High Court ruled in his favour in 2017.

The company had already received R2.6 billion from the contract, which Molefe had sought to recoup. Swifambo then approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), however it also lost that legal challenge.

Prasa’s disastrous handling of the locomotive contract is considered one of the agency’s most shocking failures.