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Brian Molefe picked 'unsuitable' China South Rail locomotives for contract

The commission of inquiry into state capture heard from previous witnesses how Gupta-linked companies received significant so-called success fees for sealing Transnet's deal with China South Rail.

Former group chief executive Brian Molefe at a press conference in Johannesburg on 3 November 2016. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

PRETORIA - A former strategic manager at Transnet described how former group chief executive Brian Molefe unilaterally rejected his proposal to purchase a specific locomotive for coal hauling and opted instead for a Chinese manufacturer that was not fit for purpose.

Francis Callard was testifying at the state capture commission of inquiry in Parktown on Friday.

The commission heard from previous witnesses how Gupta-linked companies received significant so-called success fees for sealing Transnet's deal with China South Rail.

Callard said he and his team argued in favour of buying the locomotives from Matsui, which was already a Transnet supplier.

“We talked to the reasons that standardisation and compatibility with existing goods and services, considering that we already had 110 and we wanted to just expand the current fleet,” he said.

He said China South Rail’s product was not suitable:

“It was not a 22-ton-per-axle locomotive, it not was a heavy-haul locomotive, it was not designed for the coal line. It was specified for general freight. In short, it was not suitable for the coal line therefore, we can't move in that direction.”

Callard said he was at the meeting where the approved plan was to be presented.

"I received an SMS from Mr Gama. It said that Mr Brian Molefe had withdrawn the memorandum and I was to politely get out of that meeting,” he said referring to former CEO Siyabonga Gama.

Callard also described how his memo arguing against purchasing the locomotives from China South Rail was crudely edited to suggest he was in favour of the purchase.

“You are now changing the locomotive, and the country of supply. From changing the country of supply, one would change the foreign exchange rates which would be applicable, which is from Yen to dollar. But the memorandum, per se, was not changed at all,” Callard said.

China South Rail was eventually awarded the contract.

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