Prasa has turned a new leaf, promises Mbalula

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula promises that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has turned a new leaf. This as he introduced the new Group CEO, Zolani Matthews, to the public on Saturday.

Matthews takes the helm of the highly dysfunctional organisation that has been battling for years to effectively deliver on its mandate.

Mbalula says Matthews has a professional track record spanning 30 years.

Matthews takes the reins at a time when public confidence in Prasa is at an all-time low. Train services were suspended during lockdown amidst fears that it could serve as super spreaders.

But even before the complete standstill, the public had all but given up on rail services.

Matthews has, among others, a degree from Harvard University in public administration. He was employed as a councillor of Icasa and served as the Chairperson of the Ports Regulator.

“We know that delivering reliable and affordable rail and other forms of public transport is central to our economic performance and our project of transformation. There are millions of stakeholders that our operations affect on a daily basis and our overarching priority is to put passengers at the heart of all we do. All our strategic aims, modernising, building a service for the future, improving the rail network and organisational capacity, enhancing our reputation for service and commitment to good governance – these aims are our pledge card – the yardsticks by which we will measure our capabilities in meeting, the challenges to come. I am determined, together with our team and the board of control to work ceaselessly to deliver high-quality service and build a stable, fiscally prudent modern company that fulfils its mandate and is at the centre of our future transportation objectives.”

Since the departure of Lucky Montana in 2015, there has been no group CEO. Ten people acted in this position in the last six years.

Mbalula announces developments on Prasa executive management:

Fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounts to hundreds of millions of rands. But the Minister has asked South Africans not to lose hope, saying it will not happen overnight, but Prasa will recover.

“My core mandate is to get the passenger rail, commuter in the big city centres and everywhere else to operate. And that is my core mandate. Where we overlap in terms of mandate with Transnet, Prasa and Transnet (we) must find each other. Now, I’ve got the group CEO at Prasa, I’ve got a Board, they can talk and make sense. Me and Pravin, Minister of Public Enterprise, agree. There is no question between us. The question is the implementers. So, the task to get people in the right positions is faster and important that it must be done.”

The board also outlined some of the interventions that are under way in stabilising the organisation. Lifestyle audits are among these.

Prasa Board member, Advocate Smanga Sethene, says they are issuing a warning to those that have looted, or have intentions to loot the agency.

“There are people with inexplicable wealth. You’ve got people who can buy a farm worth R11 million and pay it in two months. You’ve got people with 10 properties, all of them not bonded. I’m giving you the snippets of some of the things that will be highlighted in that lifestyle audit and everybody who’s found to have been on the wrong side of the law, he or she will definitely have to dance to the music.”

Mbalula was joined by Matthews and the board on a site inspection at Langa Station where numerous shacks have been erected on the train tracks. A process is under way, in conjunction with other government departments, to remove the people in order to fully restore services on the central line.

Mbalula has welcomed the appointment of Zolani Matthews as Prasa’s Group CEO.

The Prasa Board has welcomed the appointment.