Why They Call Me Mr 350% – Defiant Prasa CEO Says It All

The RTMC's acting chief executive officer, Collins Letsoalo, has been recalled. File picture: Masi Losi

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has tried twice to return suspended acting CEO Collins Letsoalo to sender, with no success.

And a week after he was again handed his marching orders, a defiant Letsoalo has insisted that the ongoing salary debacle is not his fault.

“This is subterfuge,” he told the committee on Tuesday.

Prasa and Letsoalo were summoned to Parliament on Tuesday to explain his so-called 350% salary hike.

In a meeting that was more akin to a “soapie”, according to MPs, the suspended CEO and the board continued to hurl accusations at each other.

“I never, ever calculated my salary or ever asked for an increase, and they know this,” Letsoalo told the committee.

Board members ‘lying’

The Prasa board unanimously voted to dismiss Letsoalo after the Sunday Times revealed that he allegedly increased his salary from R1.7m to R5.9m per annum in October.

He said once he had been seconded to Prasa, he had merely inquired about what he was entitled to in terms of salary and secondment allowance.

He accused the board members of lying, and said they had known of each and every step taken ahead of his appointment, including the salary scale.

But the board disputed this, with board member Tefetso Phitsane telling the committee that Letsoalo had demanded to be paid what former CEO Lucky Montana had earned, which amounted to R5.9m.

He had threatened them and had said he would view it as insubordination if his request was not granted, Phitsane said.

“Where have you ever heard of an official negotiating his own salary, including looking at inflation?” Prasa said.

Letsoalo was armed with more than 10 emails which he read out in the committee. The emails detailed his secondment and discussions about his salary.

‘Something fishy’

An animated Letsoalo read out the emails, at times drawing MPs attention to particular points.

“Aha, here is the interesting part. This is a killer. Aha, there is something fishy going on here, listen to this,” he said at one stage.

He named each and every person who had been copied in emails ahead of his appointment, including board chairperson Popo Molefe.

The acting CEO told the committee that since the salary difference was in the spotlight, he was constantly under scrutiny.

“When I’m walking, they call me Mr 350%,” he said.

Prasa told the committee that Letsoalo had first been dismissed in August 2016, and again in December.

But the minister had asked the board to expedite the filling of the CEO position permanently, and they had been working on an April 2017 deadline.

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