Who are the board members and executives at Prasa who enabled the looting of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa)? This week we turn to Sfiso Buthelezi, a former deputy minister of finance and current member of Parliament, whose six years as Prasa’s first board chairperson saw the parastatal procurement process systematically undermined and its coffers drained.
It is easy to forget the social impact of corruption when South Africa’s political elite is rarely held to account. In Unaccountable 23, 24, 26 and 29 we outlined evidence of corruption against multinational corporations, politically connected businesspeople and middlemen who profited from corrupt contracts from Prasa, the grossly mismanaged state-owned passenger rail company. They could not have done so without the assistance of senior members of the board and executive. This week we turn our attention to Sfiso Buthelezi, whose six years as Prasa’s first board chairperson saw billions looted from the parastatal, some of which is alleged to have gone to the chairperson himself.
Buthelezi was board chairperson from 2009-2014, during some of Prasa’s most vital years. In this period, Prasa undertook a significant modernisation programme to manufacture modern trains and rail infrastructure for millions of commuters. However, this industrial programme and budget was captured by a network of companies and businesspeople who systematically bypassed the procurement process under the watch of Buthelezi. This contributed to the rapid breakdown of Prasa’s infrastructure and service, forcing over half a million commuters to find more expensive forms of public transport over the last decade, according to the recent National Household Travel Survey (NHTS).
Buthelezi is now the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Appropriations in Parliament, responsible not just for allocating funding to government departments, including SOEs like Prasa, but also for ensuring compliance with the Public Finance Management Act and other procurement legislation.