#UniteBehind takes Minister of Transport to court over PRASA

PRASA announces technical team to assist recently appointed Administrator

Photo of train

Commuter activist group #UniteBehind is taking Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula to court. Photo: Lucas Nowicki

By Liezl Human

5 February 2020

Commuter activist group #UniteBehind has lodged a court application which aims to overturn the Minister of Transport’s decision to appoint Bongisizwe Mpondo as the Administrator of the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (PRASA). The application was submitted to the Western Cape High Court on 4 February.

In early December the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, announced that the interim board of PRASA would be dissolved and instead be replaced with Mpondo as the sole administrator for a twelve-month period. He would take on the responsibilities of the entire PRASA Board of Control.

The other respondents in the court application are the National Treasury, PRASA, and the Minister of Finance.

In the affidavit submitted to court, Zackie Achmat, secretariat member of #UniteBehind, writes that the decision to appoint Mpondo as sole administrator will “allow PRASA to operate without any lawful and effective oversight”.

The affidavit also claims that the Minister of Transport does not have the power to appoint an administrator in the place of a Board of Control.

“This application is directed at rectifying the unlawful state of affairs at PRASA which, as a result, is currently operating without a Board of Control and accounting authority,” the document reads.

#UniteBehind maintains that the dissolution of the PRASA Board of Control contravenes both the Legal Succession to the South African Transport Services Act and the Public Finance Management Act.

The Legal Succession Act stipulates that PRASA’s Board of Control should be composed of, at least, an officer in the Department of Transport, an officer in the Department of Finance, an officer in the Department of State Expenditure, a member nominated by the South African Local Government Association, as well as three members with expertise in private sector enterprise.

In a media statement, #UniteBehind said: “It is simply impossible that one person can be expected to fix the tragic chaos of our rail service. Without a permanent Board filled with people with experience and commitment, we cannot hope to extricate ourselves from this crisis.”

In a media statement released on 5 February — i.e. after the #UniteBehind papers had been lodged — PRASA announced that Mpondo has appointed a technical panel of five advisors to assist him with “critical technical expertise” during his twelve-month tenure. These members consist of Mathetha Mokonyama, Krishna Govender, William Mathebula, Phelisa Nkomo, and Makhosini Mgitywa.

#UniteBehind welcomed the appointments of “advisors with real expertise” but said noted that they are appointed to “assisted with capacity constraints in operations” and that they are not an independent oversight body.

This article was updated with additional information after publication.