#UniteBehind takes transport minister to court over Prasa

05 February 2020 - 16:15
By Liezl Human
Lobby group #UniteBehind has gone to court to overturn the decision to appoint Bongisizwe Mpondo as Prasa administrator.
Image: Sizwe Ndungane Lobby group #UniteBehind has gone to court to overturn the decision to appoint Bongisizwe Mpondo as Prasa administrator.

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 SA (Prasa).

GroundUp reported that the application was submitted to the Western Cape High Court on February 4.

In early December, transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced that the interim board of Prasa would be dissolved and instead be replaced with Mpondo as the sole administrator for a 12-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 SA 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 February 5 — after the #UniteBehind papers had been lodged — Prasa announced that Mpondo had appointed a technical panel of five advisers to assist him with “critical technical expertise” during his 12-month tenure.

These members are Mathetha Mokonyama, Krishna Govender, William Mathebula, Phelisa Nkomo and Makhosini Mgitywa.

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

This article was originally published by GroundUp.