JOHANNESBURG: The board of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA has defended the appointment of chief executive Zolani Matthews, saying his age was not an issue for the role.
A report by GroundUp on Friday alleged that the new chief executive was too old to take up the post, as the agency's own policy said employees should retire at 63. Matthews is 64.
Citing Section 18 of a Prasa policy, GroundUp said the agency’s first permanent chief executive in six years, could not take up the job according to the policy they cited.
“Subject to the provisions of the approved Retirement/ Provident Funds, an employee shall retire on attaining the age of 63 years … Employees may, however, on request and with the consent of management, remain in the service after attaining the age of 63 years on contract basis, provided that the operational needs of the company require that an employee’s services be retained,” they reported.
The Prasa board's Smanga Sethene disputed this and said they had not made any amendments to HR policy, and said they were free to appoint anyone, of any age.
“We wish to reiterate as the board that, since our appointment, we have amended no HR policy. Neither have we devised nor signed any HR policy.
“The blatant lies peddled in the media, that I approved and signed a certain policy, is devoid of truth and substance. It is a mere fallacy and a figment of the imagination of peddlers of falsehoods.
“Prasa, as a state-owned company, is established to perform public function of rendering rail services to public. It is established in terms of Legal Succession Act.
“Nothing in the act prescribes age restriction for employment of any person at Prasa.
“Of course Prasa cannot appoint persons underage, as that would constitute child labour, which is prohibited in terms the Labour Relations Act and International Law.
“Section 24 (4) of the Legal Succession Act confers powers to the board to appoint secretariat/administration, which shall on the full-time basis carry out functions that the board may prescribe to it.
“This provision of the act accords with the provisions of the new Companies Act and King Codes: to appoint the GCEO.
“It must be emphasised that all Prasa policies are subservient to the Legal Succession Act. There is no Prasa policy that trumps others or is supreme to others.
“The termination policy of Prasa relates to persons who are permanently employed at Prasa, not persons that are not in the employ of Prasa. Termination policy does not supersede the recruitment and selection policy,” he said.
He said Prasa had 23 people, who were over the age of 63, on their payroll and they were “of great service to Prasa”, and they were legally employed, he said.
“There has never been a media probe on the employees concerned. No media house has called them names. Their productivity has never been an issue,” said Sethene.
He said the appointment of Matthews was above board, after a service provider bidded to handle the process.
The recruiter advertised the job on LinkedIn, and several newspapers and 58 people submitted their CVs.
“following a pre-screening process, 20 candidates were interviewed by the service provider. The selection process continued and the top ten candidates were shortlisted.
“Out of the 10 candidates shortlisted, there was a final shortlist of six candidates, who were interviewed on January 30.
“All six candidates were given a case study to prepare a presentation to the panel, setting out how they intend handling the work of the business if appointed.
“Following a fifteen minute presentation, candidates were asked the same questions prepared by the panel.
“Following the completion of the interviews, the HR representatives and acting group executive for HR, who sat as secretariat and observer, Ms N Kondowe, indicated that the interview process was conducted, consistent with the policies of Prasa,” he said.