The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has appointed an acting CEO of Rail who is under investigation for corruption and sexual harassment. This has been revealed in a letter sent on 5 January by the UniteBehind Coalition to the chairperson of the PRASA interim Board, Justice Makhubele. UniteBehind has given the board until Thursday (today) to suspend Mthuthuzeli Swartz.
UniteBehind said PRASA had decided to promote Swartz to acting CEO on 3 January, ignoring legal advice given at the end of December 2017 that he should be suspended.
Swartz has held numerous positions at the rail agency including Western Cape Regional Manager and, more recently, Executive Manager for Mainline Passenger Services.
UniteBehind listed several reasons why Swartz should be fired immediately. It also demanded that he be forced to account for his actions.
GroundUp approached PRASA to comment on all the allegations described in the letter. PRASA spokesperson Nana Zenani said the agency had no comment. Sipho Sithole, head of communications at PRASA, had also not responded to questions by the time of publication.
Allegations and GroundUp’s investigations
The UniteBehind letter states that Swartz is still under investigation for his time at Mainline Passenger Services. The allegations against him include corruption, irregular procurement processes, intimidation and sexual harassment. GroundUp has seen a document that confirms that an internal investigation of these allegations is indeed taking place.
The Coalition also states that Swartz is being investigated for alleged involvement in the theft of rail lines and sleepers in Elliot, Eastern Cape in 2013. GroundUp has seen a police document related to this case. According to the document, people were caught removing rail lines and sleepers in January 2013. The suspects then produced a letter of authorisation with an employee code on it, a Metrorail scrap form, a request for used rail form, and a map of the country’s railway lines.
The document does not state that Swartz is a suspect, but says: “The public prosecutor needs the following statements from relevant persons (but not Mthura Swartz) in Metrorail Cape Town” regarding the letter and the employee code.
Hawks Eastern Cape spokesperson, Captain Anelisa Feni, said she could only confirm that the Hawks are investigating a case related to PRASA but could “not reveal the identities of the suspects.” Feni said no other information could be shared with the public yet.
UniteBehind alleges that Swartz appointed two junior staff members who did not have the necessary qualifications and relevant security clearances. But GroundUp was not able to confirm whether the employees named in the letter were registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). PSIRA requires ID numbers to check registration and we do not have the ID numbers of the employees.
UniteBehind claims that Swartz is being investigated for “a range of unlawful activities” by the Public Protector. This week, Cleopatra Mosana spokesperson for the Public Protector confirmed to GroundUp that the organisation’s Western Cape office had received an anonymous complaint for “alleged maladministration in relation to mismanagement and abuse of resources, irregular recruitment and labour processes” by “officials at Metrorail Western Cape” in 2013. She said the Public Protector’s office received new information from PRASA for this case on 21 December 2017.
“This information still has to be evaluated and incorporated by the investigators.” The investigation is ongoing, she said. But GroundUp has seen no evidence that Swartz is the subject of this investigation.
The Coalition said that Swartz’s poor record started over a decade ago while working as executive director at the City of Cape Town. In February 2007, a City disciplinary tribunal found Swartz guilty of eight counts of “failing to perform his duties as a senior manager” for his role in the controversial over R8-million Jewellery City tender. According to a 2007 article, Swartz approved the payment of R1,200 per hour to a consultant from Johannesburg for managing the Jewellery City project. He appealed against the ruling but it is unclear if his appeal was successful. City officials have not been able to provide information on this by the time of publication.
Should the PRASA Board decide not to suspend Swartz, UniteBehind said it should give legally valid reasons for this by the close of business on Thursday.
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