The Citizen (KZN)

Axed Prasa board back in the saddle

Directors were fired for alleged ‘misconduct’ after spat with minister. MINISTER ACTED UNLAWFULLY

- Ilse de Lange

Former transport minister Dipuo Peters’ decision to oust Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) board chairperso­n Popo Molefe and his directors was unlawful, arbitrary and irrational, a North Gauteng High Court judge ruled yesterday.

Judge Peter Mabuse set aside Peters’ decision on March 8 to remove the board and ordered that the directors, whose terms end in July, must be reinstated. “The minister appears to have given no considerat­ion to the serious and prejudicia­l impact of the wholesale removal of the board on Prasa’s interest,” he said.

The judge also found that the minister had denied the directors a fair hearing before firing them, simply raising their alleged “misconduct” in an attempt to justify her unlawful conduct.

“It is in the public interest that the affairs of Prasa be properly regulated by an independen­t board of control independen­tly of any interferen­ce from the government . ... It is of paramount importance that corruption in Prasa be exposed and prevented.

“The public has an interest to fight the deep-rooted corruption in the country because it compromise­s the democratic ethos, the institutio­ns of democracy and gnaws at the rule of law,” he said.

The directors maintained their abrupt removal was aimed at thwarting ongoing investigat­ions which had so far exposed fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditur­e totalling at least R14 billion.

Peters, who resigned as a member of parliament last week after losing her job to Joe Maswangany­i in President Jacob Zuma’s March 31 Cabinet reshuffle, had also accused the board of deliberate­ly getting rid of “corruption buster” Collins Letsoalo, who was appointed as acting Prasa CEO at her insistence to enable them to operate “unchecked”.

The board was fired after a public spat about Letsoalo’s massive salary increase, which they claimed was unlawful but which Peters said had been approved by Molefe. Judge Mabuse said Letsoalo was entitled to the same package as his predecesso­r. However, the board had the discretion to terminate his appointmen­t and the minister should have accepted their decision rather than discipline­d them.

The transport department said it would comment on the way forward “at the right time”.

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