By Zintle Mahlati
Former president Jacob Zuma had pushed hard for the Prasa board to rescind its decision to accept former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana’s resignation.
This was a revelation made by former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe at the Zondo commission.
Molefe appeared for a second day at the inquiry on Friday.
He detailed how there was an attempt by Zuma and former minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe for Montana to be re-hired as the head of Prasa.
Montana had handed in his resignation to the board in June 2015 and the board accepted it. When he resigned, Montana had been plagued by allegations of corruption involving contracts sanctioned by him.
Molefe said it was decided that Montana would stay on for a further six months until March 2016 to help the board find a new CEO.
Molefe said during this time Montana’s continued presence did not help the company as he went on a smearing campaign about the board and the organisation. It was then that the board decided to release Montana in July 2015, ahead of his notice period.
Molefe explained that in August 2015, he was invited to a meeting with the former president by Radebe.
He said then transport minister Dipuo Peters was also invited. The meeting was held on August 20 at the presidential guest house in Pretoria.
Molefe said the meeting was delayed for over two hours. To his surprise, Molefe explained as he was about to leave as he was frustrated with the delay, he saw Montana and politically connected businessman Roy Moodley leaving a meeting room with Zuma.
He said this surprised him because a former head of a state-owned enterprise had taken precedent to meet with Zuma over him and Peters.
“Mr Montana had been in one of the rooms with Mr Moodley. What they were discussing I do not know. I was surprised that they would have had an opportunity to see the president above a chairperson and a minister, also Montana had no standing at Prasa at that moment,” Molefe said.
When the meeting started at 6 pm, Molefe said present was Peters, Zuma and Radebe. Zuma then said he had invited Montana to join the meeting. Molefe said he was also surprised by this development.
In the meeting, Zuma spoke boastfully about Montana and that he was a highly qualified individual who was an asset to the government and should be allowed to return to Prasa. He said Zuma wanted the board to reverse its decision to accept Montana’s resignation.
“The president said this young man (Montana) is knowledgeable and he has the skills the country needs and, in his view, he should not be lost to the country and some solution should be found for him to use his skill in the organisation.
“The solution he (Zuma) was suggesting was that the decision (the board accepting Montana’s resignation) be reversed. He was asking that it be reviewed. This is an untenable situation and there is no way one could explain it,” Molefe recalled.
The former board chairperson said he tried to explain to Zuma that Montana had resigned and he was not fired.
“My response is that I cannot make a decision in a private space about a decision that was taken by the board. I explained that Montana had not wanted his contract extended. I told him I was happy to host a board meeting where he (Zuma) would explain to the board what his issue with the decision was,” he said.
Molefe said the meeting lasted for hours and ended at 2 am because Montana was given a platform to make a detailed presentation explaining his grievances.
Montana complained that the board was appointed to manufacture his removal. He said he was never consulted when the board was appointed. Molefe said these issues were not new.
The meeting ended at 2 am once Zuma fell asleep. Molefe said there was never a concrete outcome to the meeting.
Molefe said what concerned him the most about this meeting was that Zuma was attempting to influence board decisions.
“The head of state of South Africa and the governing party was now directly attempting to interfere in the matters of the board of Prasa,” Molefe said.
Montana had been implicated in a report released by the Public Protector titled “Derailed”. It highlighted corruption in tenders issued at Prasa under his leadership.
The commission resumes on Monday at 10 am. IOL