Failures at Prasa must be fixed now

Broke Prasa must be fixed, steadily and with due urgency, the writer says.
Broke Prasa must be fixed, steadily and with due urgency, the writer says.
Image: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath

Just over a week ago, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo appeared before the Gauteng legislature to present the agency's plans to operate trains on level 3 of the lockdown.

The plan was rejected as it soon became evident that the agency was not ready to operate under the strict regulations required.

For example, it could not provide daily consumer numbers, the basis of which it could craft its social distancing and other plans.

Furthermore, it had planned to open one line in Gauteng, a decision indicative of its major capacity challenges countrywide.

Subsequently, transport minister Fikile Mbalula confirmed that the agency was not ready to have trains operating and that they would resume services from July.

None of it was surprising.

Like many state-owned companies, Prasa had over the years been hollowed out by corruption, maladministration and mismanagement.

As a result, commuters who depend on its subsidiary Metrorail have been on the receiving end of its poor and chaotic services across the country.

On Friday, Mpondo also announced new executive management for its operations, with businesswoman Nosipho Damasane at the helm of Prasa Rail and Hishaam Emeran as chief executive officer of Prasa Technical.

The appointments are a promising sign of efforts to bring stability and efficiency to the entities.

Damasane's record when heading Gautrain operator, Bombela Operating Company, spoke for itself, Mbalula said.

"This major step bears testimony to the fact that we are ensuring that Prasa is capacitated with befitting talent in all positions," said Mpondo on Friday.

They all have their work cut out for them.

They are joining an entity that is so broke that it is battling to pay employees, so mismanaged that it received a disclaimer from the auditor-general last year and one described by Mbalula as a broken organisation.

But it must be fixed, steadily and with due urgency.

Its importance to the country's economy can never be overstated.

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