“PRASA is playing games,” said Zizipho Loyd, 24, a member of civil society coalition UniteBehind who travelled by taxi from Khayelitsha to attend the hearing of Parliament’s transport committee on Tuesday. “They should have been here, but they are not serious. They know that what they are doing is wrong.”
Loyd said she cannot afford to use a taxi to travel and wants to be able to use the trains.
The hearing was scheduled to take place at 9:30am on 6 February when the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the Railway Safety Regulator and UniteBehind were due to address the committee.
But despite the presence of PRASA’s acting group Chief Executive Officer Cromet Molepo, none of the six members of the current interim board were in attendance.
“The message only got to the board yesterday and they requested to be given time,” replied Molepo when asked by committee member Leonard Ramatlakane where the board was.
“The invitation for this meeting was sent out last week Wednesday,” said committee chairperson Dikeledi Magadzi. Molepo confirmed that the secretary did receive the meeting invitation on Thursday 1 February, but he said there was confusion around why the board chairperson, Advocate Tintswalo Annah Nana Makhubele, had only received it on 5 February.
“There’s no confusion, I think it’s a convenient excuse not to be here, not to account to this committee,” said committee member Manuel De Freitas. “I actually feel insulted that they think that we as a committee can be so stupid to believe their nonsense. I think they do not want to account because that entity is shambolic and I’m proposing that we call them back.”
No responses were forthcoming from the PRASA delegation of Molepo, acting Rail Chief Executive Officer Mthuthuzeli Swartz and acting group Chief Strategic Officer Sipho Sithole.
Ramatlakane adjourned the meeting and gave the PRASA delegation until 2pm to arrange for the board to fly down from Johannesburg to attend the meeting.
“It takes two hours to fly here from Johannesburg, we have the whole day,” said Ramatlakane. “I suggest you get them here.” Molepo and Sithole accepted the request but expressed concern about board members being able to get a flight in time.
At 2pm Molepo reported back that none of the board members was able to make the trip and that board chairperson Makhubele “was at a doctor’s appointment.”
The committee decided to subpoena the PRASA board to attend a meeting on 13 February.
Railway commuter safety is in the spotlight, with the fatal shooting on 9 January that resulted in the closing of Metrorail’s Central line in Cape Town.
This is the second time in the last month that PRASA’s management has failed to arrive at an important meeting. On 10 January it missed wage talks with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.