A new report alleges that the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane tried to capture the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa in order to secure a R51 billion tender.
The report is contained in the Sunday Times, and was conducted by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.
The details of attempted capture of Prasa, are contained in a letter written by the former CEO of Prasa,Lucky Montana, in October 2012.
The letter said that following “numerous meetings”, the Guptas, Duduzane and their associates pressured then transport minister Ben Martins and Montana, to favour China South Rail to supply the parastatal with 600 commuter trains.
The letter claims that the Guptas proposed allocating “shares” to Montana and “directly, unashamedly and unapologetically demanded” the restructure Prasa’s board.
According to the Sunday Times article, Montana wrote the letter – seen by amaBhungane – to then Prasa board chairman Sfiso Buthelezi after discovering that the Department of Transport was preparing to change the board.
Montana confirmed that he had written the letter in September 2012 -two months after Prasa issued the train tender, while Buthelezi also confirmed he had received the letter, the Sunday Times said.
“I have previously reported to the chairman,” the letter said, “of my attendance of numerous meetings at various periods with the minister of transport, key advisers in the ministry of transport and representatives of the Gupta family.
“It is in these meetings where I was introduced to representatives of the Gupta family and the son to the president, Mr Duduzane Zuma, and their relationship with one of the bidding companies, China South Railways … I had taken issue with the representative of the Gupta family over what I considered to be attempts on their part to ‘extort’ money from [bidders].”
The former Prasa CEO said his first introduction to Rajesh “Tony” Gupta, and Duduzane Zuma, took place at Martins’s Pretoria residence in the third week of September as he was about to leave for a transport conference in Germany.
According to the letter, bidders at the conference told him “that they are required to pay money on the side, that they are aware that the Prasa AGM will be postponed, which truly materialised, and further informed that [the] purpose of the postponement was to allow time for the board of Prasa to be restructured. This will ensure that the requirements of the Gupta family and China South Railways are achieved.”
Montana alleged that the bidders told him a Gupta associate had met with bidders in Switzerland, telling them: “We work with Lucky [Montana], we work with Ben Martins [and we have] the support of the president. [If] you don’t work with us, you are not going to get this bid.”
Montana said he “blasted” Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zzuma. “I thought that was the end of the matter. Unfortunately it was not.”
Aaccording to the Sunday Times, Gupta wanted Prasa to include two Gupta nominees among the bid evaluators. “I rejected that,” Montana’s letter said.
“I must also add that the Guptas have presented a plan that I and other people have been allocated shares within CSR, the plan which I rejected contemptuously in the presence of our minister,” it said.
The letter refers to a Gupta associate’s direct demand to Martins to restructure the board.
“I was taken aback and continue to be surprised by the fact that the representative of the said family finds such power, authority and audacity,” Montana wrote.
Montana wrote the letter and threatened to quit. He Montana and Buthelezi then met Martins, and the board rejig was averted, the Sunday Times said.
Another bidder, French-backed Gibela, was given the R51 billion contract in December 2012.
Earlier this month, ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, said that eight people had come forward with information relating to allegations of state capture by the Gupta family – however only one person provided a written statement to the party.
As a result, Mantashe said that the ANC had decided to close its investigation into the matter.
Zuma did not respond to amaBhungane, while the Gupta families lawyer Gert van der Merwe said that he advised his clients to reserve their right to comment until the journalists disclosed a copy of the document.
Van der Merwe was given the text of the letter but not a scanned copy, due to concerns about protecting its source.
A full copy of the report is contained in the Sunday 19 June 2016 edition of the Sunday Times