South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO: ‘Hawks’ wanted R500m from me, claims former Prasa boss Lucky Montana during commission testimony

Former Passenger Rail Agency of SA CEO Lucky Montana. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Esa Alexander)

Former Prasa chief executive Lucky Montana was supposed to answer questions about property transactions, but he ended up making allegations that witnesses were threatened to testify.

The former chief executive of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) Lucky Montana returned to the State Capture Inquiry on Monday to answer questions about his property transactions. But at the end of the day, his testimony was described as “running around in circles”. 

Montana told the inquiry that he “rejects with contempt” suggestions that he used Prasa money to buy property through his property development partner. 

Previous testimony before the inquiry alleged that Montana would view properties, and these would then be paid for by Riaan van der Walt through a company called Precise Trade and Invest 02. Van der Walt, through Precise Trade, is alleged to have settled Montana’s bond for a property in Tshwane, among other transactions, as revealed by Daily Maverick.

Montana confirmed he had a relationship with Van der Walt, whom he described as “a great legal mind” and an “Afrikaner who was committed to South Africa”. Montana claimed the allegations had “destroyed” Van der Walt, who has since relocated to Texas in the US. 

Montana said he does not drink or smoke, but: “If there’s one activity I do in my spare time, I go look at land.” He claimed he was being “demonised” for buying property.

To dispute allegations of Prasa money going towards his properties, Montana provided the inquiry with his Absa bank statements detailing his property transactions, which claimed he had a monthly repayment of R95,973 for his property bonds across three homes in Saxonwold and Parkwood in Johannesburg and Waterkloof in Pretoria.

Montana said the real issue at the inquiry was “to project me in a different light”, referring to media reports that his property acquisitions were the result of criminal activity. 

He also said he had met with someone who claimed to be from the Hawks, who claimed Montana had defrauded the state of R3.2-billion. According to Montana, “they wanted R500-million” and investigator Paul O’Sullivan could help. Montana said he told the person “go to hell”. In September 2015, O’Sullivan opened a docket with charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering against Montana. 

The inquiry had to break several times during Montana’s sessions – because of technical difficulties and for Montana’s bank statements to be admitted as evidence.

Montana said he had heard that witnesses who had been called to testify against him were threatened by O’Sullivan’s “people”. According to Montana, witnesses were forced by people claiming to be from the Hawks to testify, or “they would be arrested”.

Ultimately, said evidence leader Vas Soni about Montana’s property transactions, “in a sense, we are running around in circles”.

Montana is scheduled to return for testimony on Tuesday along with two Prasa figures, Martha Ngoye (the agency’s Head of Legal, Risk and Compliance) and Tiro Holele. In the afternoon session, the former chief executive of Transnet Siyabonga Gama is due to testify.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Monday evening via Twitter, the Commission of Inquiry warned the public of a fake Twitter account claiming to be that of evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr. DM

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