NEWS

#UniteBehind to take PRASA to court

Activist group demands urgent action against corruption and poor management at rail agency

In September UDF veterans and #UniteBehind members picketed outside the National Prosecuting Authority demanding acton be taken against corrupt PRASA officals. Photo: William Yoder
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On Thursday night, about 100 train users from across Cape Town gathered at the Cissie Gool Hall in Woodstock to speak about their daily commuting struggles with overcrowded, delayed and crime-ridden trains. The activist forum, organised by the #UniteBehind coalition, discussed an action plan against the ongoing problems at Metrorail and its parent company, the state-owned Passengers Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

Zackie Achmat of #UniteBehind told the crowd the coalition would be launching litigation. He said between R20 and R24 billion had been stolen at PRASA. He said communities should form action committees.

“It is time to show them that we are dead serious about what is happening in our country,” said Achmat.

On Wednesday members of the #UniteBehind organising secretariat, including Achmat, and veteran UDF activist Zelda Holtzman, sent a letter to Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi asking for him to take “urgent action” against corruption and poor governance at the rail agency.

The letter welcomed the Minister’s announcement of a R9-billion upgrade to the Western Cape rail system, but asked that he describe how the money would be used and how the allocation was decided. The letter stated that the deteriorating rail services was a direct result of state capture and corruption.

Central to the letter was the question of the PRASA board. PRASA had been running without a board for about four months. The letter called for the public to be able to suggest board candidates “given the crisis of confidence in Metrorail services and corruption”. It asked that “legally valid reasons” be given should a public and parliamentary participation process be denied.

As it happens, a day after the letter was sent, Cabinet appointed an interim board for PRASA. Its members include Advocate Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele (chairperson), Dr Natalie Skeepers, Professor John Maluleke and Magdalene Reddy.

Achmat told GroundUp in response: “Personally, I have no knowledge of the interim board members. I don’t know if they have experience in rail services, if they’ve ever managed massive tenders or have the necessary skills. We want a statement from the [interim] board members that they are going to continue to look into corruption matters at PRASA.”

Achmat stressed the importance of having an “ethical and efficient” board with the necessary skills to do the job. He said if the appointment process was open and the public were able to make submissions, they “would have more trust in the board”.

The coalition also asked the Minister what steps had been taken to ensure assets gained through corruption, fraud, theft, and money laundering in PRASA/Metrorail were frozen or returned to the “desperate” public rail system.

“What steps have you taken to ensure that all former PRASA Board members, former CEO Lucky Montana, local companies and global entities such as the Spanish rail company Vossloh España are brought to book?” the letter asked.

The coalition has given the Minister of Transport until Monday 23 October to respond.

GroundUp attempted to get comment from the Minister, but we have been unable to find a telephone number that gets answered.

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