Prasa confirms precautionary suspension of its chief executive, Zolani Matthews

Public Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) chief executive Zolani Matthews has been placed on precautionary suspension nine months after his appointment, the chairperson, Leonard Ramatlakane, confirmed on Friday.

“He has been suspended, it is a precautionary suspension,” Ramatlakane told the Mail & Guardian.

In a statement, the Prasa board said it had at a meeting on Thursday considered “an alleged sensitive matter of security breach and other contractual obligations associated with” Matthews’ employment contract.

“By consensus, the board resolved that Mr Zolani Kgosietsile Matthews should be placed on precautionary suspension to allow detailed probing of the matter at hand [to] be concluded in his absence,” it said.

Ramatlakane said the board would endeavour to conclude the investigation expeditiously and would appoint an acting chief executive to ensure that the running of the organisation is not affected.

He did not give further detail.

Matthews was appointed in February. He recently said in an interview that Prasa was in a dire state, with its infrastructure unable to support a modern rail network despite billions of rand in investment.

Prasa has for years been debilitated by corruption, including the R3.5-billion contract to buy locomotives from Swifambo that was inked in 2013 during the tenure of Lucky Montana as chief executive and turned into one of the numerous tender scandals the country has seen.

Swi­fambo managing director Auswell Mashaba admitted he had made payments amounting to about R80-million to Maria Gomes, an Angolan business person linked to South Africa’s then president, Jacob Zuma.

Montana was fired in 2015 after defending the Swifambo contract and insisting the allegation that the locomotives were too big for the rail network was a lie.

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