Western Cape regional head of Prasa, Richard Walker

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape regional head of the Public Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Richard Walker has been sent on special leave by the acting CEO, Mthuthuzeli Swartz on Tuesday pending an investigation. 

The United National Transport Union (UNTU) has welcomed Swartz's decision. UNTU has the majority of member workers at the rail agency. For over 20 months, the union says it's been calling for the removal of Walker who's been unable to implement preventative measures to avoid chaos from erupting at stations when trains were delayed.

Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said she could not comment at the time.

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Steve Harris, general secretary of UNTU says, "Swartz indicated that he is serious in his attempts to bring about a complete turn-around of rail services to the benefit of our members, most of the employees working for the state-owned enterprise (SOE), and to the benefit of millions of commuters nationwide who are depending on a reliable service to get to and from work".

UNTU sees Walker’s mismanagement of the rail services in the Western Cape as the reason why the notorious Central Line was suspended for more than five weeks.

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Harris believes that previous attempts by Prasa’s top management to remove Walker have been blocked by the acting board. "UNTU does however believe that the board realises that it is not allowed to interfere with daily operational requirements of the passenger rail agency," he added. 

The United Democratic Front Veterans recently hand-delivered a letter to Ramaphosa urging him to bring back Popo Molefe, investigate Prasa's corruption and revive the railway system in Cape Town.

Meanwhile, Metrorail has confirmed that trains will resume operating on the Central Line from Wednesday, nearly a month after it suspended services following vandalism and an attack on a security guard in Khayelitsha.

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