Former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) acting CEO Collins Letsoalo said on Tuesday he would sue the utility, the Sunday Times newspaper and other individuals for about R20 million for fraud and defamation.
The Sunday Times has apologised to Letsoalo after the press ombudsman ruled that the newspaper tarnished his dignity and reputation after it published a false and misleading story in June.
Letsoalo said he was not accepting the apology and reiterated his belief that he was axed from Prasa for uncovering rampant corruption by executives and their relatives at the troubled agency, rather than over an alleged massive salary increase.
The Sunday Mail story said the Auditor-General (AG) had asked Letsoalo to pay back the money he had earned when his salary was increased 350 percent in October 2016 when he was seconded to Prasa from the department of Transport, taking his salary from R1.3 million a year to R5.9 million. But the AG denied he was the author of the report.
The North Gauteng High Court ruled that Letsoalo was entitled to the package of R5.9 million per year agreed upon in his appointment or the same package enjoyed by his predecessor Lucky Montana.
Speaking on public broadcaster SABC’s “The Agenda” programme on Tuesday, Letsoalo said he told his side of the story to a Sunday Times journalist about the non-existence of the AG report, but the journalist refused to accept his version or verify the document with the AG’s office.
“What did the Sunday Times do, they went ahead and printed the story without asking the AG. When the Ombudsman asked them why are you not doing that, they never came forward,” Letsoalo said.
“In fact the ombudsman says they failed to cooperate with his office. We are none the wiser about who the author of this report is, but it looks like it’s a concerted effort where people who would take Chapter 9 institutions reports and use it to malign other people and come back to say sorry. They are sorry, but that is not enough.”
“My lawyers are actually working on the papers and the evidence we have … but of course we are running into millions, maybe R20 million (between) Prasa, Sunday Times, Popo Molefe, Bhekani Khumalo and all other people associated with them. ”
Letsoalo said Bhekani Khumalo, the group executive for human capital and former Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe were among individuals out to tarnish his image.
On Monday Letsoalo broke his silence for the first time since February, accusing Prasa executives of corruption and nepotism, saying many had wives doing business with, as well as sons, daughters and other relatives working for the rail agency.
Letsoalo said his investigations into procurement, the payment of suppliers and non-payment of others had threatened some powerful people and that almost every board committee focused on money, rather than how to cut expenses, grow revenue and ensure trains were on time, clean and maintained.
During the SABC interview, Letsoalo also accused police in Pretoria of sitting on a case of perjury he had opened against Molefe for allegedly lying under oath about receiving payments.
“As I leave here I’m going to open a case of fraud of this forged investigation report at the Brooklyn police station [in Pretoria] against this Sunday Times journalist and his sources,” he said.
“I have to pursue the issue of my damages at a criminal level.”