Johannesburg - These pictures show axed Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) Group CEO Lucky Montana entertaining a group of women on a luxurious train ride as part of a Cape Town weekend getaway at a cost of R170 000 to taxpayers.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released her report into the state rail agency, titled Derailed, this week in which she gave Montana “the benefit of the doubt” into allegations that he undertook an “alleged improper Blue Train trip to Cape Town” between September 24 and 27 in 2009.
This week, Montana told Gauteng radio station Power FM: “I’ve said to the Public Protector, I have never travelled with these women on the Blue Train, unless we are talking a different trip. But if there is an allegation that Lucky Montana travelled on the Blue Train with 10 women, it’s false, and that is why I thought the Public Protector will dismiss that particular issue. Instead, she said she’s putting it to another investigation.”
The pictures show that Montana travelled on Prasa subsidiary Shosholoza Meyl’s Premier Classe train, not the Blue Train, which is owned by fellow parastatal Transnet. Montana, however, also denies that he was on this other train.
A whistle-blower previously employed by Prasa, who spoke on condition his name not be published, told City Press Montana and the women’s overnight train ride came with massages, six-course meals and sparkling wine. The whistle-blower alleged that Montana personally checked the women into the Premier Classe Train in Joburg on Thursday, September 24 2009.
Premier Classe comes complete with gowns, bedding, toiletries and phones for ordering room service to your cabin. At current rates, a single adult ticket from Joburg to Cape Town costs R3 120.
“These ladies were not on the passenger manifest, meaning they were, in effect, sneaked on to the train,” the whistle-blower said. “On board the train, they were pampered throughout. They enjoyed bubbly and massages, as well as six-course meals. Upon arrival in Cape Town, Montana checked them out of the train himself and booked them into a hotel in Camps Bay. The ladies were then flown back home from Cape Town.”
Prasa regularly invites “stakeholders” in the tourism and hospitality industries on trips in Premier Classe, notably to the Cape Town Jazz Festival every April.“However, the evidence obtained from SAA indicates the travelling costs in respect of the persons referred to by the complainant were paid for in cash.”
Madonsela said: “I have not been provided with convincing evidence to conclude that [the] complainant’s allegation is corroborated and proved.
“In the absence of such evidence, I am inclined to afford Mr Montana the benefit of the doubt,” she concluded.
Yesterday, the Public Protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, told City Press their report quoted the complainant, who appeared to have made the mistake about the trip being taken on the Blue Train.
Segalwe said they hoped to “clarify this particular issue in our follow-up report, set to appear in six months’ time”.
Mabe in trouble
Meanwhile, Pule Mabe, an ANC MP and ANC Youth League leadership contender, may face more trouble over his business dealings when Parliament’s ethics committee considers his case.
Madonsela found that Mabe’s company, KG Media, was “improperly” appointed to produce Prasa’s in-house Hambanathi Magazine in a six-year deal worth more than R33 million, or R465 669.75 a month.
Mabe’s directorship in the company, whose contracts with Prasa were found to be unlawful and a flagrant contravention of a number of laws, was not declared in the register of members’ interests published by Parliament in September last year. A company search reveals Mabe only resigned his directorship on May 11.
Mabe’s directorship goes against the code of conduct for MPs adopted last year, and bars MPs and their immediate families from doing business with the state.
But Mabe, who became an MP in May last year, only disclosed his shares in the company and not his directorship, as required.
Amos Masondo, co-chairperson of the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests, said the committee would study the Public Protector’s report “quite carefully” before deciding what action to take.
The committee is scheduled to meet before the end of next week, but Masondo could not say whether the Mabe matter would be discussed.
Moloto Mothapo, the spokesperson for ANC chief whip Stone Sizani, told City Press Sizani would soon meet Mabe to discuss “his implication” in the report.
Mabe did not respond to requests for comment.