Ex-Prasa boss accuses Zondo of being ‘biased’

Former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa chief executive officer Lucky Montana has lashed out at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Montana says he believes it would be in the interest of justice for the commission chair to recuse himself.

Former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chief executive officer (CEO) Lucky Montana has slammed the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture and its chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo “for the bias the commission continues to display”.

In a statement on Thursday, Montana said he is seeking legal advice on whether he should proceed with an application for Zondo, whom he accused of being “extremely biased”, to recuse himself.

Montana said Zondo “has abandoned the fundamental principles of fairness and justice that underpin our justice system”. He added the commission’s chair “is selective” and shows no interest “to hear the version of those of us that are accused”.

“He has made up his mind and is pursuing a pre-determined outcome,” Montana said, adding that Zondo “has shown that he will go to great lengths to achieve that very outcome”.

Montana said the commission’s fundamental shortcoming was that the accused are not afforded the opportunity “to tell their story”.

He said he had applied to appear before Zondo in July last year “long before” former Prasa chair Popo Molefe “and others” testified at the commission.

The former Prasa CEO accused the commission of not being “interested in the information” he wishes “to share except to limit my testimony to the false allegations levelled against me”.

Montana said while Zondo was being cheered by “some sections of our society”, “the cause he is pursuing will have disastrous consequences for our country”.

“While those involved in corruption or any wrongdoing must be held [accountable], the commission should not allow itself to serve particular interests and contribute to further deepen the conflict and divisions in our society,” he said.

“The losers of this witch-hunt will find a way to come back, laying the basis for future political instability in our society.”

Montana said before he makes an application for Zondo to recuse himself it would be reasonable to give the commission’s chair “the opportunity to reflect honestly on the matter of his extreme bias and unprofessional conduct”.

“He should ask himself if there will be any prejudice if the matter were to proceed in his absence. I believe this would be in the interest of justice for him to take such a step,” he said.

Montana said he on Thursday submitted “a comprehensive statement” to the commission for his almost 10-year tenure as Prasa CEO.

He said his submission of the statement was an indication of his commitment “to cooperate fully” with the commission.

Montana has previously accused Zondo of allowing the commission to be used for witch-hunts.

Zondo has heard testimony that Montana allegedly fired a Prasa official, Fani Dingiswayo, who did not back an “irregular” tender.

In July, Dingiswayo also told Zondo that there were a number of individuals and service providers, who had undue influence at Prasa, which was a concern and that these individuals included businessmen Roy Moodley and Makhensa Mabunda.

The group executive of legal risk and compliance Martha Ngoye earlier this year told Zondo that there was a sense of fear during Montana’s tenure at Prasa.

Zondo also heard from Molefe that former president Jacob Zuma attempted to get Montana reinstated as the CEO of the agency following Montana’s departure from the state-owned enterprise in 2015.

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