Molefe itching to get back into Prasa hot seat
Axed Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe says he wants to return to the parastatal to fulfil his mandate before his term ends in July.
Molefe is in limbo over his role at the passenger rail agency as he awaits a decision by the courts on whether he can return to work or not.
Friday proved to be a testing day for him as he faced two challenges, including an urgent court application by former acting group executive Collins Letsoalo at the North Gauteng High Court.
Speaking shortly after Judge Peter Mabuse reserved judgment in his case against Minster of Transport Dipuo Peters, Molefe said he wanted to use the four months remaining to ensure there was further progress at Prasa.
“We are not involved in a love affair and are not concerned about who likes us or not. It’s about carrying out our mandate,” he said.
He and six other board members, who were removed by Peters earlier this month over their decision to sack Letsalo, went to court, asking it to declare the minister’s decision illegal, irrational and biased.
Molefe, Zodwa Manase, Mashila Matlala, William Steenkamp, Xolile George, Clement Manyugwana and Tefetso Phitsane said the minister was clouded in her reasoning for removing them.
In court papers, the group maintained that they were moved arbitrarily and capriciously without being afforded prior notice of their removal or an opportunity to be heard.
Their attorney, David Unterhalter, told Judge Peter Mabuse that the decision to remove them was invalid, as was the appointment of a new interim board.
The group said they wanted to be reinstated to their former positions as board members.
Unterhalter said it was clear that Peters had acted unlawfully and outside the bounds of legality as she had flouted a number of administration procedures.
Moreover, the group said they were justified in their reason to dismiss Letsoalo because of the irregular procuring of a salary of more than R5million for himself.
This week Peters defended her choice to dissolve the board and appoint a new one.
She charged that maladministration and irregular expenditure had rapidly increased and flourished under their leadership, and that they had failed to provide oversight. As a result, they had plunged Prasa into a dark hole.
She said, furthermore, that Parliament had also noted its unhappiness with the performance of the board since August last year.
She said Letsoalo was booted out for standing up to corruption.
However, the board members said the minister’s unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct and dishonesty against the board were drummed up by her to justify her unlawful actions.
Molefe also rubbished suggestions that the board had plunged Prasa into financial crisis, saying that to the contrary it had improved systems, including introducing a range of products to bolster the function of the state-owned entity.
“I don’t think we failed dismally in our role. We were building this organisation but were frustrated by the minister’s failure to appoint a permanent chief executive. We needed a permanent chief executive who would crack the whip,” he said.
Molefe said he was unperturbed by Letsoalo’s last-minute application.
Through his lawyer, William Mukhari, the former Prasa boss said he wanted to intervene in the court case as spurious and false allegations which sought to taint his reputation had been made by Molefe in court papers.
He also claimed that he had material that he was prepared to present before court, relating to matters at Prasa. But Unterhalter argued there was no formal basis for Letsoalo to be included in the case as he had sidestepped the board on many occasions.
This, he said, included lying to Molefe about his knowledge over a newspaper expose that revealed how his salary had been hiked 350%.
Unterhalter highlighted at the time the salary story broke that Letsoalo was travelling with Molefe in London and had been asked if he was aware of the claims. He had flatly denied this.
Judge Mabuse dismissed the application with costs, saying he was neither satisfied nor persuaded by Letsoalo’s arguments.
Molefe said Letsoalo knew he had no basis in approaching the court.
“It’s his choice to say what he wants to say and lie. I’m a professional. I’m not going to chase after all of these things. They are minor,” Molefe said.
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