South Africa: DA Tasks Transport Minister on PRASA Accountability

Press Release issued by Chris Hunsinger MP – DA Shadow Minister of Transport

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to ensure rigorous accountability processes at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) following the strict intervention by the Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) ordering Prasa-operated Shosholoza Meyl to stop operating with immediate effect.

This decision comes after a fatal crash on 12 February in which one man was killed and several injured when a Shosholoza Meyl train collided with a goods train in Roodepoort. The train which operated under manual authorization was travelling at 60km/h at the time of impact, thereby irresponsibly exceeding the compulsory 30km/h speed restriction on a line that is operated manually.

Prasa continues to demonstrate a total disregard for rail safety in its operations. Had the entity performed its duties diligently – the Shosholoza Meyl collision could have been avoided.

It now appears that Prasa does not have the ability to manage and control risk directives which have been issued upon safety inspections by RSR. The Regulator now seems to be the one having to manage safety controls at Prasa, instead of being responsible to assess risks and protect lives.

It is no surprise that Prasa is failing to deliver in its most basic duties. The entity has been hamstrung by the years of looting, mismanagement, and instability brought on by the appointment of numerous Ministers of Transport, who, in turn, appointed a multitude of inept boards and executives. Current Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, has all but bailed out of a personally established War Room which hardly lasted half a year, fired the last board and opted for the highly controversial appointment of an administrator to oversee the mess that is Prasa.

During this period from January 2018 until recently, RSR-issued directives increased from 35 356 to over 150 000 per month. A clear indication that none of the plans, turnaround strategies, and interventions bared any fruit to make rail services safer for our commuters and passengers.

Safe rail services are an essential component of a reliable public transport system and are vital to the running of the economy – unfortunately, as things stand, government is a long way away from achieving proper rail safety standards.

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