File image: Sibusiso Sithole.
JOHANNESBURG - The long- term stability of the ailing Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) was again brought into question when the Department of Transport appointed former eThekwini city manager Sibusiso Sithole as chief executive on an interim basis.

Prasa said it recommended Sithole to Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to take charge of the troubled parastatal until May next year.

Chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama said Sithole was a “turnaround strategist and policy specialist” who is aware of the immense challenges facing the company.

“We cannot overemphasise what our expectation as a board are from the chief executive,” Kweyama said. “Fortunately, with the kind of experience he has, we should not expect difficulties in him executing the task at hand.”

The rail agency has struggled to find a permanent chief executive since the acrimonious exit of Lucky Montana in 2015 after he was accused of, among others, blowing R600million on trains that did not fit South African standards.

His interim successor Collins Letsoalo was also removed unceremoniously after the previous board, led by ANC veteran Popo Molefe, accused him of demanding a R5.9m package which was four times the agreed salary.

Prasa has not submitted its 2016/17 annual report, which is supposed to be submitted at the end of September every year.

The rail agency in 2015/2016 received an unqualified report from the auditor-general, after it was found to have lost R13.9billion in the 2016 financial year due to irregular expenditure.

The DA immediately took issue with the appointment of Sithole, who it deemed not fit to run the company.

DA MP Manny de Freitas said Sithole’s personal finances were also an issue.

“It is simply unacceptable for an organisation such as Prasa, which is struggling under the weight of bad debt and poor corporate governance, that the minister sees fit to appoint an individual who cannot manage his personal finances,” said De Freitas.

However, Nzimande took issue with the DA picking holes in Sithole’s personal affairs.

“One will struggle to find a single black person who has never been on the credit bureau,” said Nzimande.