So who really is on the PRASA board?

Confusion over Department of Transport representative as CEO appears to contradict chair of board

By James Stent

10 February 2021

A statement by PRASA’s CEO appears to contradict a statement by the board chair about who represents the Department of Transport on the board. Archive photo: Tariro Washinyira

In a new twist in the saga of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), the acting CEO appears to have contradicted a statement by the board chair about who exactly is on the board of the rail agency.

By law, the PRASA board must include a representative of the Department of Transport.

On 3 February PRASA chair Leonard Ramatlakane said the Director General of the Department of Transport, Alec Moemi, had been appointed by Minister Fikile Mbalula as the department’s representative to the board.

But in documents filed to the Labour Court, Acting Group CEO Thandeka Mabija says the Department of Transport representative on the board is Hlengiwe Ngwenya, the Acting Chief Director of Rail Regulation. Attached as an annexure is a letter of appointment signed by Mbalula, dated 5 January 2021.

And the PRASA webpage, which as GroundUp pointed out on Tuesday had not included a Department of Transport representative, was updated on Wednesday to include Ngwenya, although without an accompanying photograph.

The affidavit was filed Tuesday afternoon by Mabija in the matter of the dismissal of three PRASA executives, Martha Ngoye, Nkosinathi Khena, and Tiro Holele. The three took the rail agency to the Labour Court to contest their dismissal, alleging among other things that the board which fired them was not lawfully constituted at the time.

Mabija holds that their application lacks merit, as there is no case for urgency, that the Labour Court is not the correct jurisdiction, and that the applicants’ contention that the board of PRASA was not lawfully constituted is not true.

However, GroundUp has independently confirmed that neither Ngwenya or Moemi were present for at least two board meetings in January 2021, including the 28 January meeting that resulted in the firing of Ngoye and two others.

GroundUp has submitted requests under the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) for the attendance registers of all PRASA board meetings between 22 October and 9 February.