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Former PRASA Rail boss denies charges against him

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“My role in this case is to clarify the allegation … All other charges do not relate to me” says Mthuthuzeli Swartz

Photo of train
Mthura Swartz has been implicated by commuter activist group #UniteBehind in state capture that has led to the deterioration of Metrorail. Photo: Brent Meersman
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“People are either ignorant of the facts or they are completely bent on calling for my head,” says Mthuthuzeli “Mthura” Swartz, former PRASA Rail acting CEO.

On Tuesday, Swartz made a brief appearance at a court in Port Elizabeth for a number of charges, including the theft of railway lines and sleepers in the Eastern Cape in 2013 amounting to 1.5 million. He was released on R2,000 bail and is due back in court on 27 February.

On Wednesday, PRASA spokesperson Nana Zenani confirmed that Swartz had been dismissed on 8 November 2018, following a disciplinary hearing. In a ruling, Theo Mokhatla who chaired Swartz’s disciplinary enquiry, concluded that Swartz was “simply dishonest and a law unto himself”.

In an attempt to dispel criminal charges brought against him for his alleged involvement in fraud, money laundering and theft during his time at the rail agency, Swartz told GroundUp that “this case is not about me at all but it’s about two companies involved in an illegal transaction”.

One of the companies Swartz refers to is Spanish Ice Logistics.

According to a police docket seen by GroundUp, people were found removing rail lines and sleepers in Eliot in January 2013. The suspects then produced a letter of authorisation, a Metrorail scrap form, a request for used rail form, and a map of the railway lines. The letter produced by the suspect is believed to have Swartz’s signature on it.

Swartz has denied any involvement in the letter, claiming that it was a “clumsy” forgery.

He says the company allegedly purchasing the stolen goods claimed to have a letter of authority. “This letter bears my forged signature. The authenticity of which has been dismissed by the SAPS Forensic Unit as fraudulent and clumsy,” he says.

He accused commuter activist group #UniteBehind of “jumping to conclusions that are designed to cast aspersions on my integrity”.

“We should allow the process to unfold,” he said. “I know that’s asking too much from those who for years have sought reasons, no matter how small, to publicly execute me,” he said.

“My role in this case is to clarify the allegation that I participated in assisting the seller of the rails to defraud the buyer. All other charges do not relate to me,” he said.

“How can I be involved in fraud if I’m not the author of the letter authorising the theft? How can I be involved in money laundering if the payment was not made into my bank account?”

In response to Swartz, #UniteBehind’s Bruce Bagrie acknowledged that Swartz was entitled to defend himself. “If what he says about his signature being forged is true, it begs the question as to why he has been arrested? Given what has emerged about him through his disciplinary hearings at PRASA, the ongoing investigation into him by the Office of the Public Protector, and his history of corruption including an irregular tender of R8 million rand in 2007, we are not inclined to believe him.” (This is a reference to a 2007 City of Cape Town disciplinary tribunal that dismissed Swartz.)

“Various whistleblowers from PRASA came forward to #UniteBehind during the disastrous tenure of Swartz, citing serious allegations of intimidation and corruption. We take comfort knowing that he continues to face justice,” Baigrie said.

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TOPICS:  Metrorail

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