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At last – a permanent board for embattled Prasa 

Archive Photo: 19 May 2011: Leonard Ramatlakane. (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Michael Hammond)

For the first time since 2017, there is a permanent board of control at South Africa’s rail agency, Prasa. New chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane is all too familiar with the agency having sat on the Parliament’s transport oversight committee previously. 

(Photo by Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)

Former ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane has been approved as the new chairperson of the board of control of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa). This announcement was made during a Cabinet briefing held on Thursday, 22 October. 

Prasa has been without a permanent board since 2017 and has been plagued by interim boards, increasing vandalism and theft, governance issues and appearances by officials before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture. 

In December 2019, new Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula fired the interim Prasa board and appointed Bongisizwe Mpondo as the entity’s administrator. Activist coalition #UniteBehind then launched a court application to overturn Mpondo’s appointment on the basis that the correct legal procedures were not followed in this appointment. 

In September, Western Cape High Court Judge Nathan Erasmus set aside Mpondo’s appointment and gave Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula 60 days to appoint a new board of control for Prasa. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Mbalula’s appointment of Prasa administrator declared unlawful

Last week, at a media briefing in Cape Town , Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula told journalists that a new board would be announced by 23 October, pending Cabinet approval. On Thursday, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu revealed all the Cabinet decisions for the week, including the approval of the board. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Court deadline approaches, but Prasa is still without a board of control

Ramatlakane, a former ANC MP in the National Assembly, was appointed as the board’s chairperson. He is not a stranger to the governance and security issues at Prasa – he sat on the oversight committee on transport that oversees the Department of Transport and its entities, including Prasa, between 2014 and 2019. In addition, he has been Community Safety MEC and Transport and Public Works in the Western Cape. In 2008, he defected to COPE and represented that ill-fated party in Parliament. In 2014, he then appeared on the ANC’s parliamentary list and was appointed to the Transport and Police oversight committees. 

Other appointments to the board include: 

  • Matodzi Mukhuba –  an engineer with his own firm. According to his company’s website, in 2019, he was nominated as the Project Mobilisation Manager to lead the mobilisation phase of the new Prasa trains – dubbed the People’s Trains. He was then tasked to set up the Gibela Technical support organisation in preparation for commercial service. Gibela is the company responsible for creating the new trains from its base in Nigel, Johannesburg. 
  • Dinkwanyane Mohuba – was interviewed for a position on the SABC board alongside Khanyisile Kweyama, who would chair the board. In 2018, Kweyama was appointed interim board chairperson of Prasa until her board was fired in 2019 by Mbalula.
  • Dr Alison Emslie Lewis – Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment at the University of Cape Town. 
Alison Lewis Photo:Roger Sedres/UCT News

 Three extra seats on the board are still to be filled with representatives from the departments of Transport and Treasury, as well as a representative from the South African Local Government Association.

When asked for comment on the announcement of the board, Ayanda-Allie Paine, the spokesperson for Mbalula, said the ministry was planning a media briefing on this.  DM 

This article was updated at 3.49pm to remove Jennifer Schreiner’s name as a non-executive board member. Cabinet , through GCIS, had announced her name initially, but said in a statement of correction at 2pm, that it was an error.  “In making this assertion, we relied on an outdated Cabinet Memo which has since been updated. Ms Schreiner will not form part of the Board,” said the corrected statement.

 

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