The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) board has been dissolved by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, citing on-going governance challenges as the cause. An inquiry will be launched to explore these challenges.
According to Portfolio Committee on Transport Chairperson Dikeledi Magadzi, the resolution to launch an inquiry into Prasa was not taken lightly. “After two days of deliberations, the committee still did not have a sense of whether Prasa will be saved. It is important that Prasa works if we are to grow the economy and deliver on the mandate to get poor South Africans to work,” said Magadzi.
She added: “As things are now, there is no sense that the board is in control of anything. It does not seem that there are controls at the entity to ensure good governance in line with legislation. That said, the committee is of the view that the entity could still be saved,” she said.
The terms of reference and composition of the inquiry will be decided at the next committee meeting.
The removal of the board has been welcomed by South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) which claims the board was unable to advance the developmental agenda of the agency and identify with challenges of the ordinary people who make use of Prasa’s services.
SATAWU argues that under the dissolved board trains often ran late or not at all, causing a number of problems for workers, and that safety appeared to have been reprioritised, with petty crimes on the increase.
The union said in a statement: “The constant changes in executive management undoubtedly contributed to the overall instability of the entity. The former board seemed to not have any tolerance for anyone who held a different opinion to theirs, hence the organisation saw three CEOs come and go in a space of two years. This has negatively impacted the workforce as they constantly worry about the sustainability of their employment. It has also resulted in the drying up of coffers as evidenced by Prasa’s failure to fulfil mutual agreements and/or settlements with labour.”
Former board chair slams dissolution
Former Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe, who was fired when the board was dissolved, has called the dissolution of the rail agency’s board irrational, stating that he will be seeking legal advice on the matter.
Speaking on Cape Talk Molefe has accused the transport minister of dissolving the board to kill its investigation into massive corruption.
Acting CEO axed
This dissolution of the board comes after Prasa acting CEO Collins Letsoalo was removed from his position by the minister.
Letsoalo’s removal follows a great deal of media attention surrounding his alleged misconduct in awarding himself a 350% salary hike which resulted in his dismissal by the then Prasa board. At the time Letsoalo refused to leave his position at the parastatal, arguing that only the transport minister could remove him from his post. Letsoala maintains no wrongdoing on his part.
Peters has cautioned that her decision to remove Letsoalo from his position should not be misconstrued as an indication of any wrongdoing, but rather that it should be understood as part of the broader intervention by the minister to restore stability at Prasa.
Letsoalo will have an opportunity to present his side of the story to the Peters as part of her ongoing investigation into Prasa’s affairs.