Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula's launch of a ministerial security plan for Prasa didn't bring optimism from civil society groups and unions. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula's launch of a ministerial security plan for Prasa didn't bring optimism from civil society groups and unions. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Mixed reaction to Mbalula's safety plan for Prasa

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Sep 17, 2020

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Cape Town – Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula's launch of a ministerial security plan for the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) didn't bring optimism from civil society groups and unions who said they have already lost hope for the railway service.

United Commuters Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said Prasa has not learnt its lesson.

“It is once again insourcing security which would again lead to complacency as seen with previous attempts.

“As UCV we say they must create employment by outsourcing to various security companies and rotate them every now and then,” he said.

Unite Behind organiser Zukie Vuka said they repeatedly called for involvement of commuters in the development of the plan.

“However, we hope the plan will be comprehensive, and would speak directly to safety issues affecting commuters, workers and infrastructure,” Vuka said.

United National Transport Union (Untu) spokesperson Sonja Carstens said the union did not believe there would be a “quick fix” for Prasa.

“We need a political will and a holistic approach as we have always been saying. Unless we don't have either the police or the army or armed security guards, protecting our infrastructure at Prasa we will never be able to make strides,” Carstens said.

She said in 2014 there was a presentation made to the organised labour, which according to Prasa would have “ring-fenced things” for all the railway lines in the country similar to Gautrain structure, that never materialised.

Mbalula's spokesperson Ayanda Paine said the minister would present a comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach that involved other government departments in the justice, safety and security cluster.

The City's transport portfolio committee chairperson, Angus McKenzie, said while he welcomed the initiative, he was not convinced.

McKenzie said the fact that at the last minute Prasa pulled out of a successful agreement with the City and province with the establishment of the successful Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) raised a huge red flags as well as the fact that President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) committed R1.4 billion to fix the central line and that money seemingly has disappeared justifies why the initiative becomes difficult to believe.

"Furthermore nothing is almost left of the rail infrastructure in the central and most critical line and the money should be spent on fixing and getting it up and running," he said.

ANC provincial spokesperson on transport Lulama Mvimbi said they are happy with the turnaround plan as it would clearly outline a number of pressing challenges in the rail service, including safety and security.

Daylin Mitchell, DA provincial spokesperson on transport and public works, said since Mbalula announced in March R1.4bn to restore Cape Town’s Central Line to full capacity, they have only seen the situation worsen.

Mitchell said he had posed parliamentary questions to Transport and Public Works MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela to determine the extent of the battle "we as a province face to get our railways back on track".

He said he would further invite Prasa officials and the Research Chair the entity sponsors at Stellenbosch University to brief the provincial Transport and Public Works Standing Committee on efforts to refurbish and improve network safety.

"The dwindling railway network has become a site for dumping and small scale informal businesses, with residents calling for an already failing and broken national entity, Prasa, to relocate them," Mitchell said.

“Although the organisation has deployed thousands of security guards to safeguard the stations and tracks, it has seen little to no effect."

Cape Argus

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