File image: Sibusiso Sithole.

JOHANNESBURG - The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) on Tuesday welcomed the appointment of Sibusiso Sithole as the new group chief executive of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

“Mr Sithole has proven himself as an astute executive manager in various institutions that he has ably led. There is no doubt that he has the qualifications, the skills and experience to achieve the mandate that he has been given to turnaround Prasa,” RTMC CEO Advocate Makhosini Msibi said in a statement.

Msibi extended a warm word of welcome to Mr Sithole and said he wished him well on his new assignment.

Prasa on Tuesday announced Sithole as its new group chief executive for a period of 12 months effective June 1, 2018. Sithole, the former city manager of eThekwini Municipality, will take over from Cromet Molepo who had been the acting group chief executive since December 2017.

Prasa said it appointed Sithole, a turnaround strategist and policy specialist, to bring stability and certainty to the embattled state-owned rail agency.

Sithole's appointment was met with mixed reactions.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said that Sithole was not fit to turn around the fortunes of Prasa.

READ: Former eThekwini city manager to head Prasa

But Manny de Freitas, DA spokesperson on transport, said that transport minister Blade Nzimande had "short-circuited" Prasa's revival and turnaround before it even begun by authorising Sithole's appointment, highlighting Sithole's "chequered past and limited knowledge of the transport sector".

"The DA has repeatedly called for a review of the appointment process for heads of parastatals, as the current system where ministers use their own discretion does nothing to engender accountability on the appointment of office-bearers who are fit for purpose," De Freitas said.

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

De Frietas said that Sithole had racked up almost R2 million in bad debt, defaulted on his income tax and was slow to take action against firms that were involved in tender irregularities when he was city manager in eThekwini.

"Mr Sithole's failure to efficiently manage the affairs of the city of eThekwini brings into question his ability to deal with the intractable problems currently facing Prasa, such as the long drawn out absence of a substantive board and the failure to table the parastatal’s annual report for the 2016/17 financial year," De Freitas added.

On Tuesday, Prasa again failed to table their annual report in Parliament which was due in August last year.

Meanwhile, the board of Prasa urged all staff and management to give Sithole all the support he will need during this challenging period.

Sithole will serve as the group chief executive for a period of 12 months effective June 1, 2018. Sithole, the former city manager of eThekwini Municipality, will take over from Cromet Molepo who had been the acting group chief executive since December 2017.

Prasa board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama said Sithole's appointment came at an opportune moment, and urged him to hit the ground running. 

"Mr. Sithole is quite aware of the immense challenges facing the organisation. Prasa is at its worst performance levels and there is an expectation from the public that we serve for the organisation to turn itself around," Kweyama said.

"We cannot overemphasise what our expectation as a board is from the CEO. Fortunately with the kind of experience he has, we should not expect any difficulty in him executing the task at hand."

Prasa said it appointed Sithole, a turnaround strategist and policy specialist, to bring stability and certainty to the embattled state-owned rail agency.

Addressing senior executives at a meeting to welcome him, Sithole said he appreciated and was sensitive to the issues affecting the organisation, adding Prasa was not alone as most state-owned enterprises were currently going through turmoil. 

Sithole emphasised the need for Prasa and employees to be cognisant of the role played by the organisation, namely delivering on the needs of the poorest of the poor who rely on rail as the backbone of public transport.

He expressed confidence on the caliber of Prasa employees and their ability to rise to the occasion.

African News Agency/ANA