Zackie Achmat to lead fast against corruption

Activist organisations express frustration at lack of action against corruption-accused Member of Parliament Sfiso Buthelezi

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A poster advertising a fast against corruption from 20 to 22 September. Photo: Ella Morrison

  • Activists have announced they will fast outside Parliament for three days in September.
  • The protest will be against corruption.
  • At a press conference in Cape Town on Wednesday, #UniteBehind, the Movement for Change and Social Justice, and the campaign for Zackie Achmat to be elected to Parliament highlighted the corruption allegations against Member of Parliament Sfiso Buthelezi, who used to chair PRASA.

Activists will fast from 20 to 22 September to highlight Parliament’s failure to tackle corruption. This was announced at a press conference at the Methodist Church on Greenmarket Square in Cape Town on Thursday morning.

The action is being organised by #UniteBehind, the Movement for Change and Social Justice, and Zackie2024. It will take place outside Parliament.

Addressing journalists, veteran activist and independent parliamentary candidate Zackie Achmat said he would sleep and fast outside Parliament for three days. He encouraged others to fast for as long as they are comfortable.

“Most people in our country struggle. Most of them worry about whether there will be food on the table … We want to fast. We want to show that even though the majority of people sitting here struggle, they are willing to fast against corruption,” said Achmat.

The main focus of the action is Sfiso Buthelezi, a senior ANC MP, who is the chair of the Standing Committee on Appropriations and the former chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

Recently Achmat directly accused Buthelezi and companies linked to him of benefitting from corruption at PRASA “to the tune of at least R120-million”. In response, Buthelezi sent Achmat a letter of demand.

Buthelezi is also named in the report of the Commission of Enquiry into State Capture that was headed by Raymond Zondo, now Chief Justice.

Speaking at Wednesday’s press conference, Moira Levy, of Defend our Democracy, said, “A year after the Zondo commission produced its report, Zondo said state capture could happen all over again, because nothing has changed.” She was referencing a recent public statement by Judge Zondo.

Buthelezi chaired PRASA from 2009 to 2014, when the agency undertook a “modernisation programme”. Since then, the number of passenger train sets has decreased from 288 in 2014 to just 83 in 2021. Between 2013 and 2021, the number of train users shrunk massively.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Derailed report implicates the PRASA board and executive in “improper conduct involving procurement irregularities, conflict of interest, nepotism and human resources mismanagement, including victimisation of whistle-blowers.”

Buthelezi was personally implicated in a conflict of interest after failing to disclose his involvement in Makana Investment Corporation, which had a 15% stake in Cadiz, a company that advised PRASA.

Achmat reminded the public that Madonsela suggested that every one of Buthelezi’s contracts above R10-million should be investigated. This is yet to happen.

#UniteBehind lodged a complaint against Buthelezi with Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests for Buthelezi’s alleged role in corruption at PRASA in August 2022. The complaint named six members of Parliament.

After six months of waiting, #UniteBehind initiated legal action against Parliament because of the delayed response. The committee eventually dismissed the complaints against four members, Buthelezi included, and suspended one, Joe Maswanganyi, for six weeks with pay. The result of the committee’s investigation into the sixth member is unknown.

#UniteBehind has long campaigned for commuter rail to be fixed. “Taxis are three times as expensive, many are unsafe. Many take longer to get to places of work…this is money directly taken out of our pockets,” said the organisation’s Joseph Mayson.

TOPICS:  Corruption Prasa / Metrorail

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