PASSENGER Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) CEO Lucky Montana has left the parastatal‚ eight months ahead of the scheduled end of his contract.

The Media and Press were called to a press briefing organized by Prasa to give a public statement concerning the dismissal of Mr. Lucky Montana. However, the press briefing was cancelled without proper reason, Prasa Group Strategy Office Sipho Sithole told addressed the press briefing attendants. It was decided after consultation with Transport Minister Dipuo Peters that the statement from Thursday would be sufficient, says Sithole.

On Thursday the board said in a short statement to staff: “On 15 July 2015 the Board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) resolved that Mr Montana will not be required to work the remainder of his notice period, which commenced on 1 June 2015. Mr Montana’s last day of employment with the PRASA will accordingly be 15 July 2015.

“The Board is in the process of finding a suitable replacement. Until this process is finalised Mr Nathi Khena will be acting as the Group Chief Executive Officer. Mr Khena is currently Chief Operations Officer of PRASA and Acting CEO of Autopax.

“On 15 July 2015 the board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa resolved that Mr Montana will not be required to work the remainder of his notice period‚ which commenced on 1 June 2015. Mr Montana’s last day of employment with the Prasa will accordingly be 15 July 2015‚” the statement read.

Lucky Montana on Friday described his dismissal as group CEO of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) as “grossly unfair and illegal”.

Addressing journalists at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Rosebank, Johannesburg, Montana said the decision to dismiss him had not been unexpected, but implied it was politically motivated.

He said he had been hurt by the manner in which the board had taken the decision to fire him. “I left the board meeting [on Wednesday] because I got a call to say my uncle has died. The board was aware of this. The decision to fire me was taken after I left the meeting,” said Montana.

Montana had signaled in April that he would not seek to renew his contract when his contract expired on March 31 2016 as nearly a decade of work at the agency was negatively affecting his health.

Montana’s departure comes after weeks of intense controversy after Afrikaans newspaper Rapport published allegations that new, multibillion-rand locomotives Prasa ordered are unsuitable for local conditions. These allegations were strongly and very publicly denied by Montana.

It has further transpired that Montana has been in a battle with board chairman Popo Molefe over the last eight months and has earlier indicated that he would not seek a renewal of his employment contract when it expires in December.

To this effect the board apparently then decided to relieve him of serving out his six-month notice period.

Molefe was quoted saying that Montana was fired because he was in breach of the conditions agreed upon with the board for this notice period, including that he wouldn’t sign any tenders during this period.