The United National Transport Union (Untu) on Monday slammed transport minister Blade Nzimande’s decision to replace the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) board and its chief executive without consulting with labour first, saying the decision was reckless.
The union said it had requested a meeting with Nzimande just after his appointment in February, stating that it welcomed his intentions to leave no stone unturned to stabilise Prasa.
“Untu wanted to discuss the interference of the board in Prasa’s daily operations, the appointment of a permanent board and the appointment of a permanent chief executive officer, amongst others, with the minister,” said the union in a statement.
“On March 9, the office of the minister informed Untu that the union’s request was receiving the necessary attention, but the union has not heard from the minister since.”
Instead, the minister went ahead and announced a new board that on their turn made changes to the leadership of Prasa without first hearing Untu out, added the union.
“It is bizarre for any company to change its board and its chief executive officer for the fourth time in less than two years while dealing with its third minister. The South African public wants to know why passenger rail in this country has deteriorated to this crippled state on the brink of total collapse. This is why.
“Over the past two years, Prasa has had no consistency, lasting leadership or stabilisation. Nobody knows who is the boss from this day to the next as government seems insistent on playing a game of Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses with this state-owned enterprise,” said Steve Harris, Untu general secretary.
Untu further said that it has always been of the view that Prasa and Transnet, who used to be one state-owned enterprise years ago, needed to account to the same minister, adding that the two enterprises can both achieve more if they take hands to strengthen each other and combat the constant vandalism of the railway infrastructure by organised international crime syndicates.
According to Harris, the same request for a meeting was sent to minister Pravin Gordhan, the public enterprises minister responsible for Transnet. The minister responded in person saying he welcomed Untu’s request and would meet with the union soon. His office has been in contact with Untu since.
“Untu is now more than ever of the view that it makes no sense to keep Transnet and Prasa under separate ministers as it is only to the detriment of both. Prasa could be moved to the minister of Public Enterprises where other enterprises like Denel, Eskom, SAA, and Transnet accounts to,” said Harris.