The group executive of legal risk and compliance at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Martha Ngoye, on Monday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that the agency’s former CEO, Lucky Montana, dismissed her from her position without giving any reasons.
Ngoye’s dismissal followed that of her colleague in the department Fani Dingiswayo, the commission heard.
The two were sacked from the agency after Montana had sent out an email dated 18 May 2015 to Ngoye, Dingiswayo and others, which Ngoye said she viewed as a complaint from the former CEO.
In essence, Montana’s “complaint” regarded the contract Prasa had entered into with Prodigy, a company owned by businessman Roy Moodley, who is said to be linked to former president Jacob Zuma, the commission heard.
Ngoye and Dingiswayo had advised Montana that the contract was irregular, however, in an email on 18 May 2015, the former CEO said there was nothing wrong with the contract and with it being extended and that making the contract seem as irregular was part of an agenda which began when he was on leave from November 2014, the commission heard.
In the email, Montana had said that he would act against those who were part of this agenda or “dirty campaign”, the commission heard.
Ngoye told the commission that it was a known fact at Prasa that no one “messed with” or interfered with the Prodigy contract and Montana had dealt with some employees at the agency who had tried to do so.
She also told the commission that Montana was feared at Prasa and not a lot of people challenged him even if they did not agree with the former CEO.
“There was a sense of fear,” Ngoye said, adding that she was approached by some colleagues who advised that she should be on the right side of Montana and not challenge him.
She said in the evening of the day Montana sent the email, Dingiswayo was asked to come from home and back to the office because Montana wanted to see him.
Ngoye said Dingiswayo later told him that Montana had fired him for “leaking information to the board”.
Ngoye said when she questioned Montana about axing Dingiswayo, the former CEO’s response was that it was within his power to do so.
Ngoye and Montana met on the next day, 19 May 2015, after she had waited “the whole day”, Ngoye said, adding that that meeting did not last for five minutes because as she entered the former CEO’s office the latter said to her in vernacular that she was insolent and then fired her in the presence of his PA, special adviser and others, which the witness says she viewed as an attempt to humiliate her.
“He didn’t even sit down, he was standing,” Ngoye told the commission, adding that Montana did not give any reasons as to why he had dismissed her.
Ngoye and Dingiswayo approached the CCMA and wrote to the board asking it to intervene over their dismissal because the procedure had not been followed.
The commission heard that Montana was advised by the board that he should have followed procedure when dismissing the two if his reason that they had committed gross misconduct was true.
This prompted Montana to retract the two dismissals and Ngoye and Dingiswayo were asked to return to work, however, when the pair got to the office they were denied access to the system and were asked to give reasons as to why they should not be suspended.
Watch the proceedings live courtesy of the SABC: