Mbalula won't challenge court over Prasa CEO appointment, says no time to waste in fixing the agency
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has thrown in the towel in his fight to keep Bongisizwe Mpondo as the acting group CEO and accounting authority of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).
On August 25 2020, the Western Cape High Court declared Mpondo's appointment as the administrator of Prasa unlawful and set it aside.
At a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Mbalula said that after carefully studying the judgment he had come to the conclusion that the department would abide by the order of the court and would not appeal.
“We found no need to delay [by] appealing the judgment. We have always said that we want to bring about stability in the Prasa operations,” Mbalula said.
He said challenges still loomed large and much work still needed to be done in addressing pervasive challenges relating to security, theft and vandalism of critical assets and infrastructure as well as sheer criminality that continues to undermine provision of reliable commuter rail service.
Mbalula said the court found that there were serious challenges of good governance at Prasa way before the sixth administration.
“Therefore, under these circumstances Prasa warranted urgent and decisive intervention. The court did not agree with our interpretation and the application of section 49(2) of the PFMA,” he explained.
He said the court has ordered that his department should complete the appointment process of the board within 60 days of the court order and that the National Treasury should appoint a functionary of another entity to serve as accounting authority of Prasa pending the appointment of a board. The court further ordered that the Treasury should make such an appointment within seven calendar days from the date of the order.
“Despite this judgment, we remain firmly on a path towards building a passenger rail agency that has the requisite capacity and leadership to deliver on its mandate. Significant progress in this regard has been made over the past eight months under Mpondo’s leadership. We are well on track with the infrastructure upgrades and modernisation, among others, of the Central line in Cape Town and the Mabopane corridor in Tshwane,” he said.
Mbalula then announced that the Treasury had appointed Badisa Matshego as accounting authority of Prasa in compliance with the court order.
Matshego is a group executive responsible for infrastructure and asset management at the Airports Company SA (Acsa). His appointment is effective as of September 1 2020.
“We welcome Matshego’s appointment and have no doubt that he will continue with the task of tackling pressing challenges and ensure that when the board is in place, it will be in a position to hit the ground running in consolidating progress made in strengthening governance and organisational capacity,” he added.
In March, the activist coalition #UniteBehind launched a court application to overturn Mpondo’s appointment.
At the Zondo commission into allegations of state capture, there has been evidence of how tenders were diverted to company executives amid infighting between boards and management, all while infrastructure has been destroyed and commuters left without a safe and reliable form of public transport.
Former interim chairpersons of the board Khanyisile Kweyama and judge Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele as well as former group CEO Lucky Montana are due to testify at the commission.
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi’s former PA, Gina Pieters, took the stand at the state capture inquiry on September 2 2020. She laid out how Bosasa executives made sure that flowers, hampers and other “surprises” would be sent to then minister of environmental affairs Nomvula Mokonyane and her PA, Sandy Thomas.