South Africa

Lucky Montana calls on evidence leader to recuse himself from Zondo Commission

Johannesburg - Former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) group chief executive Lucky Montana has called on evidence leader Advocate Vas Soni to recuse himself from the Zondo Commission following a line of questioning regarding Montana's properties.

The former Prasa boss became hostile on his sixth day of testimony. “I find myself dealing with an evidence leader who doesn't want to assist the commission. I would argue that the commission made statements that are not factually based.

"I think Mr Soni should recuse himself, chair. He has demonstrated signs of being biased and taking sides," Montana said.

Soni has been leading evidence against Montana since his first appearance at the commission last month.

This week, the commission dealt with Montana’s property portfolio following allegations that he used R36 million of Prasa's money to purchase properties around Gauteng with lawyer Riaan van der Walt.

Van der Walt was a director of Precise Trade and an attorney who acted for Siyangena Technologies – a company that received a number of lucrative contracts from Prasa under Montana’s tenure.

Siyangena Technologies was found to have unlawfully won billions of rand in contracts to supply security infrastructure to Prasa stations for the 2010 World Cup and subsequent contracts.

Previously, Montana told the commission that Van der Walt was not a director at Siyangena Technologies and never did any work for Prasa, so there was no conflict of interest regarding their personal business relationship.

Montana and Van der Walt were involved in developing properties.

Montana has vehemently denied the allegation that he used Prasa money to purchase the properties, and the allegation that the properties were kickbacks for awarding Siyangena Technologies Prasa deals.

However, when questioned about the R6.8 million sale of a Parkwood property he and Van der Walt were involved in, Montana became hostile and told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that he wished to make an application for Soni to be recused from leading evidence against him.

Regarding the Parkwood property, Soni put it to Montana that he sold the house for R6.8m and agreed three weeks after the sale to do improvements to the house, which was not required by the sale agreement.

Soni put it to Montana that this could be seen as not being proper or appropriate. “I am trying to check your state of mind at the time,” Soni said.

Montana told the commission that his relationship with Van Der Walt should not intrigue anyone. “Our relationship was deeper than that. If Van der Walt wanted certain things to be done, it would be at his own cost.

“The nature of the relationship was dynamic. This should not intrigue anyone. Mr Soni’s real intention was started with the R36m allegation – a desperate attempt to link all kinds of things.

“It is a Paul O’Sullivan story. When you put money into a property you increase the value. I have bought a property that was a complete wreck and renovated it,” Montana said.

He accused Soni of pursuing a predetermined agenda.

In his defence, Soni told the commission that as an evidence-leader he could not come to the commission without a prima facie view as he would be “wasting taxpayers’ money.”

“What changed today is the question I raised about the Parkwood property… That is when Mr Montana thought here is somebody who is going to challenge the version he wants to tell.

“It doesn't mean he has done something wrong, but it means he has a lot to answer for … and I am obliged to put it to him," Soni said.

Soni furthered argued that it could not be said he had conducted himself in a manner not befitting of an evidence-leader.

Zondo said that due to the time constraints, he would not hear any merits for an application of recusal.

Earlier, Montana also tried to make an application for documents uplifted from Werksmans Attorneys to be considered inadmissible at the commission.

Political Bureau

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