DA submits PAIA application for proof VBS’ compliance with National Treasury

The DA will today submit an application to Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to request PRASA to fully disclose documents showing concrete proof of VBS Mutual Bank’s compliance with National Treasury.

In terms of Section 7 of Public Financial Management Act (PFMA), PRASA is bound to act within the “prescribed framework” for their banking, cash management and investments. S7(2)(b) requires that a public entity may only open a bank account with (a) Treasury approval and (b) after prescribed tender processes have been complied with.

This follows media reports that the cash-strapped PRASA is allegedly investing R1-billion with VBS Mutual Bank, the bank that lent President Jacob Zuma R7.8-million during the Nkandla scandal.

Further, even if PRASA was granted approval by National Treasury, VBS submitted an unsolicited bid and the DA therefore requests PRASA’s compliance with PFMA procedures for unsolicited bids and any relevant tender documents for this deal.

This is a clear indication of a leadership crisis at PRASA and this once again supports the DA’s call for a total overhaul of the leadership at the entity.

What’s more, is that there are no reasons for PRASA, which is struggling financially, to invest money it doesn’t have.

It is a huge indictment on Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi and the ANC government that the current board and executives don’t have the best interests of South Africans at heart.

The DA will not allow any State-Owned-Enterprise (SOE) to be used as a conduit for any corrupt activities whether for Mr Zuma or the politically-connected Gupta family who are heavily implicated in State Capture. Indeed, it is highly unusual for an entity such as PRASA, already marred by serious financial problems, to ‘invest’ in a bank in the first place.

The DA now awaits a response from PRASA as the public deserves to know the full truth.

Minister Maswanganyi must step up rail safety measures for communters

This statement follows an oversight visit to the Geldenhuis Train Station, in Ekurhuleni, by the DA Shadow Minister of transport, Manny de Freitas MP, accompanied by the DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP, and the DA Member of the Gauteng Legislature, Paul Willemburgh MPL. An English soundbite by Manny de Freitas, and an isiZulu soundbite by Zakhele Mbhele, are attached. 

Following our oversight visit to the Geldenhuis Train Station today, the DA was left appalled by the dire state of our rail infrastructure. This oversight follows four derailments in less than a month including the 9 January train accident in Germiston, which left over 200 people injured.

We saw clear signs of vandalism. Commuters complained about chronically late trains, criminals having free reign on the rail system, and feared that more train accidents could potentially claim their lives.

The commuters’ complaints of the dilapidated infrastructure at train stations and the poor conditions of trains point to a clear lack of proper planning and the absence of decisive leadership at Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA).

Despite the Minister’s claims that “there is no crisis” at PRASA, our interactions with ordinary citizens today prove otherwise.

The DA has on numerous occasions called on the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, to urgently address the issues at PRASA. The DA proposes that the government implement the following actions steps with the necessary urgency:

  • Appoint a capable, qualified, full-time board and executives at PRASA with untainted track records;
  • Implement an emergency safety plan that includes a dedicated police unit in the form of Railway Police to take over security operations as the current private security company is not fully equipped to combat crime and vandalism;
  • To order an urgent update as to the progress made in upgrading the current signal system so that no manual signal is used and to therefore avoid unnecessary incidents of crashes, derailments and security issues;
  • That PRASA cede control of Metrorail services and the allocated budget to Metro councils to ensure an efficient and safe integrated transportation system is delivered to commuters.

South Africans who board trains on a daily basis experience first-hand the incidents of theft of their belongings, vandalism and their personal safety is not guaranteed. Whenever they board a train they commute with the constant fear of falling victim to crime.

This is creating an environment for criminals to thrive and the unsafe railway lines demonstrate the lack of leadership and investment by PRASA into Metrorail services.

We need a total overhaul of the leadership at PRASA and urgent action is required from Minister Maswanganyi to address the current conditions of commuter safety in order to ensure a safe, reliable and integrated transport.


DA submits turn-around proposals for PRASA to DP Ramaphosa

The DA will today write to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as leader of government business, to urgently intervene in the mess that is PRASA. Ramaphosa must put pressure on the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, to act in the best interest of rail commuters who have for the past number of years struggled to access safe and reliable train services.

There is a chronic lack of leadership at PRASA which is at the core of the crisis and carnage on the South African rail network. The entity is besieged with conflicts of interest and allegations of corruption and maladministration.

The recent tragic train accident in Kroonstad where 19 people lost their lives and the accident at Geldenhuys Station in Germiston where more than 200 commuters were injured speak to an entire system that compromises the safety of commuters.

Today alone there were two derailments, one in Cape Town on the central line and the other in Germiston. Thankfully there were no injuries or loss of life in these incidents.

Instead of focusing on creating safe and efficient rail transport to millions of South Africans, PRASA is moving from one scandal to the next.

This is why the DA will write to Ramaphosa to request that he urgently lights a fire under Minister Maswanganyi to turn things around at the entity. The current crisis in railway services demonstrates that the ANC government doesn’t have a suitable plan to turn things around.

The DA proposes the following:

  • Appoint a capable, qualified, full-time board and executives at PRASA, preferably without a tainted track records;
  • Implement an emergency safety plan that includes a dedicated Police Service in the form of Railway Police to take over security operations, as the current private security company is not fully equipped to combat crime, vandalism;
  • To order an urgent update as to the progress made in upgrading the current signal system so that no manual signal is used and to therefore avoid unnecessary incidents of crashes, derailments and security issues;
  • That PRASA seed control of Metrorail services and the allocated budget to Metro councils to ensure an efficient and safe integrated transportation system is delivered to commuters.

Failure by the Minister and the Deputy President to action the DA’s proposals  will only heighten public sentiments that the entire PRASA executive is only there to advance a certain political agenda and that it is wholly incapable and heavily compromised.

PRASA CEO admitted that more than 80 trains have been lost to vandalism, it’s safe to say that the current state of affairs is not sustainable and this necessitates the urgent need to ensure a safe and effective transporting system

The safety of ordinary South Africans who work hard to provide for their families should be the top priority for PRASA. Workers risk losing their jobs and the education of children is negatively impacted on because of chronic delays.

The DA will continue mounting pressure on Minister Maswanganyi to urgently see to his mandate of ensuring a safe environment for public transport users.


PRASA to supply answers on rail electronic signalling system upgrade

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit parliamentary questions to the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, seeking clarity on the progress made to date for the electronic train signalling system which is scheduled for completion by the end of 2018 (Gauteng) and 2019 (KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape).

The Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) has prohibited the use of the manual signalling system after the recent rail accidents in the Free State and Germiston. The prohibition is likely to affect over 2 million people across the country.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) must ensure that affected commuters are provided with alternative transport and stop insisting on the continued use of the dysfunctional signalling system.

PRASA reliance on the faulty manual signalling system accounted for 8% of collisions between trains with direct costs increasing from R889 million to R961 million in the 2016/17 financial year.

It is clear that the use of the manual signalling system has largely been a consequence of the delay by both PRASA and the Department of Transport in facilitating signal modernisation.

PRASA’s claim that cable theft justified the need for a manual system is simply a flimsy attempt to avoid taking responsibility for its own inaction.

PRASA has done little to improve security on the rail system, giving trespassers and criminals free access to key areas of the rail network.

PRASA is responsible for making the rail system vulnerable due to poor supervision of security personnel, old and poorly maintained roads, lack of proper fencing and poor service roads.

It is sad to note that, due to this lethargic approach to security, a security guard was murdered on Tuesday night at Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha. PRASA must be held accountable for exposing security personnel and commuters to victimisation.

The safety of commuters must always be the primary concern of both RSR and PRASA. Implementing an efficient and fully functional signalling system must be a critical first step in this regard.

How many lives should be lost before PRASA prioritizes rail safety?

PRASA has once again proved that it is unable to guarantee the safety of passengers on its trains after 200 commuters were injured today in a train collision in Germiston.

The DA wishes the injured commuters a speedy recovery.

In view of these recurring accidents, there is need to institute a comprehensive review of rail safety to ensure that urgent remedial action is taken to improve rail safety.

The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Transport, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, to summon Minister Joe Maswanganyi and PRASA executives to come and account on the steps they will take to improve rail safety.

While the cause of the Germiston accident is yet to be established, it comes barely a week after the tragic train crash in the Free State which claimed 19 lives and saw hundreds more hospitalized.

PRASA must co-operate with the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) on the ongoing investigations into the accidents. The RSR should in turn ensure that reports of the investigations are released as a matter of urgency.

The two accidents are emblematic of poor investment in safety-related rail infrastructure. In the 2016/17 financial year, 495 fatalities and 2 079 injuries were recorded on South Africa’s rail network.

Everyday, poor and working class South Africans use trains to travel to and from work, yet they are exposed to unsafe trains which pose a risk to their lives.

It is grossly unfair that while PRASA loses millions of rands to corruption, millions of commuters are left to grapple with a compromised and unsafe rail system.

For far too long, PRASA and Minister Maswanganyi have turned a blind eye to our collapsing rail infrastructure. The DA will ensure that they account for their lack of interest in improving rail safety.

Disgraced Dudu Myeni must keep away from SAA

The DA finds it incomprehensible that the hard-won steps towards saving SAA can be so recklessly undermined by the proposal to move the embattled airline from the Finance ministry to the Transport Ministry– a ministry that has so fouled up the e-toll saga.
What makes such a proposal even worse is the news that disgraced Dudu Myeni has been appointed as a “special” advisor to Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi, a close ally of President Jacob Zuma. Despite any rules that may preclude her from interfering in SAA affairs, Ms Myeni will likely ignore these and meddle in the affairs of the airline.
The DA will now write to all South African banks that are owed the R13.8 billion guaranteed by the poor people of South Africa. We will request that they immediately inform Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, that they will recall their loans to SAA with immediate effect should the proposal to move SAA away from National Treasury be effected and if there is any pressure put on the SAA board and CEO to run the airline as anything but a commercial enterprise.
Given the mess that SAA has become under the “rule” of Myeni, she surely must be ranked as the most unsuitable person to appoint as an aviation advisor.
The removal of Myeni from the SAA board, the appointment of a new board (including an aviation expert) and, most importantly, the appointment of experienced executives like Vuyani Jarana and Peter Davies signalled the start of a process to attempt to save SAA and most of the more than 10 000 jobs. This would be in vain if the airline is once again treated as a cadre enrichment vehicle and moved back under the influence of corporate warlord Dudu Myeni.
South African banks must ensure that SAA is run on purely commercial lines. They cannot allow SAA to once again become Myeni’s plaything as poor South Africans will suffer the effects of billions of rands in losses as vital services will be forfeited in order to fund the failing airline.

Deputy Minister Sfiso Buthelezi and former PRASA executives must be criminally investigated for their alleged corruption at PRASA

The DA will file criminal charges against Deputy Minister of Finance Sfiso Buthelezi and the former PRASA board which he was chair of, on alleged offences related to financial mismanagement while at PRASA.
The DA will also write to the Chairpersons of the Transport and Finance Committee Portfolios requesting a joint sitting in order to get to the bottom of the serious allegations implicating Buthelezi and the PRASA board which he chaired at the time, in corruption at the entity.
These offences were laid bare in the findings contained in the “leaked version” of forensic reports commissioned by National Treasury, into 193 contracts PRASA entered into between 2012 and 2016, as instructed by the Public Protector’s 2015 “Derailed” report. This is in addition to charges the DA laid against Buthelezi and his brother on the 10th of June 2017 on allegations of corruption.
In the weight of overwhelming evidence as revealed in the Treasury report, the DA will reinstate charges of alleged corruption that we laid against former PRASA, Lucky Montana, on 27 August 2015, which the SAPS subsequently closed as they deemed the matter unfounded.
It is highly suspicious that the National Treasury has been sitting on this report while most of the reports from the auditors into the same investigations were completed in 2016 already.
This is a seeming tactic to delay the release of the report as Deputy Minister Buthelezi is implicated in corruption that took place during his tenure at PRASA.
It is now clear that Montana, unduly used his influence to steal from the public purse in order to enrich himself and his associates. While at the helm of PRASA, he and the PRASA board allegedly flouted the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and the Supply Chain Management and accessed taxpayers’ monies.
Buthelezi as the then chair of the PRASA board seemingly did little to stop the graft and corruption at the entity where he used his position to allegedly enrich himself and family and he needs to be held accountable.
There is clearly no justification for this and we call upon Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi to ensure that both the SAPS and the Hawks speed up investigations into corruption at the entity.
The DA will continue fighting to re-assure the South African public that we are committed to rooting out corruption at public entities that unashamedly steal from the poor.

DA to ask Public Protector to investigate Minister Maswanganyi

The DA will write to the Public Protector, asking her to investigate the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, for willfully misleading Parliament about meeting with the PRASA Board when he was appointed to the portfolio.
In a reply to a Parliamentary question, Minister Maswanganyi claimed to have met with all entities’ Boards and CEOs, including PRASA. This directly contradicts statements made by the previous chairperson Popo Molefe, who stated the Minister “refused” to meet with the board since his appointment as Minister.
Not only has the Minister failed to meet with the previous board, and lie about it – he has failed to appoint a new board. It is now 2 months since the previous Board’s term ended.
The failure to appoint a Board has resulted in PRASA failing to table its annual reports as there is uncertainty as to whether the acting CEO can be considered the Accounting Authority in terms of the PFMA. In a letter sent to Parliament, the Minister claims that “PRASA aims to submit these documents for tabling in Parliament by 31 October 2017”.
This clear admission on the absence of an accounting authority, brings into question all other contracts such as the R57bn loan agreement it entered into with the Export and Import Bank of China to finance the development of the Moloto Rail Development Corridor.
The Minister must be held accountable for his continued failure to address the disaster that is Prasa.
We wrote to the Minister on the 21st of September asking him to appoint a new board within ten days as PRASA has been without a Board since the previous board’s term ended 31st July 2017.
The 10-day notice has expired with no response from the Minister’s Office. His failure to appoint a new PRASA board has crippled PRASA’s ability to table its annual report and to function as per its mandate.
The Minister’s inaction has aided and abated the chaotic situation at PRASA and allowed state capture functionaries free reign. With no accounting authority to allow prudent financial management, corrupt individuals have been allowed to raid the public purse and enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.
We call on the Public Protector to take urgent steps to hold the Minister accountable and ensure that sanity is restored at PRASA.

Transport Minister must explain ineffective road safety campaigns

Reports that more than 20 people have died on our roads over this long weekend so far and that dozens more have been injured are deeply concerning.
The fact is that the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi, has utterly failed to explain, why far too many people die on our roads, despite millions being spent on numerous road safety campaigns.
Clearly, these campaigns are not working.
The DA will again write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, to request that she urgently summon Minister Maswanganyi to explain in detail exactly what campaigns were set up to try curb road deaths, how much these campaigns cost and further, why they have been so terribly unsuccessful.
Every year, the Department of Transport through the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), continue to use the same tired approach to try to bring down the death toll on our roads.  This approach is literally the very definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome.
The RTMC has even admitted to the portfolio committee that the biggest issues contributing to deaths on our roads are moving violations, faulty brakes and smooth tyres yet their campaign addresses absolutely none of this.
In order to save lives on our roads, South Africans must be empowered with information on road safety by effective campaigns. This is the only way we can hope to bring down the unacceptably high number of people lost on our roads.

Continued mismanagement at Prasa could see millions of South Africans lose their jobs

The DA has information that confirms that Prasa is not compliant with sections of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). This means it may not get the funds it desperately needs from the Department of Transport.
This is very alarming as Prasa transports 2 million people to and from work every day. If Prasa does not meet the requirements to get the funding it needs to keep trains running, these people will be left stranded and will inevitably lose their jobs and livelihoods.
This is a significant number of our country’s total workforce who also support millions of other South Africans.
Transport Minister, Joe Maswanganyi, has neglected his duties and failed to uphold his mandate.
He must urgently intervene to ensure Prasa gets its affairs in order as our country cannot afford to shed more jobs in this adverse economic climate.
The problems faced by the rail agency can be traced back to him as he has had little interaction with the board since assuming office.
This shows that he does not acknowledge that there is a crisis at the rail agency and that he does not take seriously the unemployment millions of people are likely to face.
What South Africa needs to recover from the recession is more jobs.
Prasa’s reluctance to comply with the country’s laws is standing in the way of economic growth.
If the Minister really cares about people’s lives, he will take swift action to ensure that the mess at Prasa does not take away their livelihoods. Maswanganyi has been entrusted to ensure the smooth flow of transport in the country and has so far demonstrated he is not the right person to do this.