The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) is operating its trains illegally without a valid permit as of midnight jeopardizing the lives of millions of commuters who have no other alternative but to use the state-owned enterprise (SOE) and for unlawfully forcing thousands of members of the United National Transport Union (UNTU) to participate in its illegal activities.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU, says the situation at Prasa has become so absurd and intolerable, that Parliament should call President Cyril Rhamaphosa to order and force him to give the country an explanation why Government has left this SOE to go to ruins over the past few years.
The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) confirmed to UNTU yesterday morning that it has not issued Prasa with a safety permit. The permit Prasa had expired at midnight.
UNTU members raised this with the Union after supervisors of the passenger rail operator forced them to continue to work.
“This is a very dangerous situation. If our members continue working, they are assisting their employer in committing a criminal offense. But if the trains stop operating with immediate effect as it should, furious commuters will go on a rampage and torch the few train coaches that the country has left.
“It is mind-blowing how Government, irrespective of the fact that Prasa had five Ministers over the last two years, could have allowed this crucial state asset, the cheapest transport for the poorest of the poor, to fall apart like this.
“UNTU warned that the wheels were coming off and now they are off,” says Harris.
The RSR issued Prasa with a permit on special conditions providing that the passenger rail operator addresses serious safety concerns pointed out by RSR inspectors. Harris says Prasa neglected to address the RSR’s concerns.
“UNTU believes it is only fair if our members refuse to work under these unsafe conditions and that is why we will take legal action to protect them,” says Harris.
The RSR has issued Prasa with a compliance order in terms of the National Railway Safety Regulator Act.
Wessie Wessels, an independent attorney specialising in criminal and civil law, says that means Prasa will be held accountable criminally and civilly as of today for any safety related incidents involving commuters or employees as they are operating illegally.
Harris says the Management and Governance of Prasa has been surrounded by controversy since the first allegations about the alleged mismanagement and corruption of former Prasa Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Lucky Montana, started.
In spite of the comprehensive report issued on 24 August 2015 by former Public Protector, Adv. Thuli Madonsela, titled Derailed, in which she, amongst others, recommended that all Prasa contracts involving more than R10 million should be investigated, there has been no arrests by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and no prosecutions by the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) to date. Billions of tax payer’s money is involved, says Harris.
“And the looting of Prasa only continues. Just last week it was reported that there was still no action taken four months after the auditor general report for the 2016/2017 financial year pointed out that officials, including senior executives, have failed to disclose that their business partners scored contracts with the entity worth more than R87 million.
This is shocking. The President owes South Africans and Parliament an explanation. UNTU approached Mr. Ramaphosa in 2016 to assist with mediating Prasa’s crisis while he was still Deputy-President but was informed his diary was too busy to assist. If he had listened to this Union, Prasa would not have totally collapsed today,” says Harris.
For more information phone Harris on 082 566 5516.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Media and Liaison Officer. For UNTU Press Statements phone 082 463 6806 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org