Pretoria - Security guards who were left unemployed after Passenger Rail Agency SA (Prasa) terminated contracts with their companies across the country turned to the Gauteng High Court in a bid to return to their jobs.
They wanted the court to declare that Prasa could only terminate their services by giving them a month’s notice. They also asked that Prasa be forced to use their services until such time that the rail agency has legally appointed other security guards to replace them.
The 2 400 guards said in papers before the court that the majority of them have been doing security work for Prasa across the country for more than three years.
Their understanding was that while Prasa was in the process of securing a new tender for its security services, they may continue their work there on a monthly basis. They also said that Prasa promised to give them a month’s notice prior to finally ending their services.
According to them, Prasa extended their contracts at the end of September and they were told that if need be, it will continue to be extended from month-to-month until the tender process to procure other security guards were finalised. So they remained at their posts for October.
Tobani Buqa, a director at one of the security companies, stated that Prasa again told them that the security guards should continue to render their services to Prasa for November.
But at the start of this month, while the workers were already at the various stations, Prasa told them that they should vacate their sites. Buqa said Prasa is at present preventing the guards from entering its premises.
On Monday, the Prasa board announced that they had resolved to terminate contracts with private security companies because they did not get value for money.
Acting CEO Nkosinathi Sishi said the contracts had been appointed irregularly by the previous board during the presentation of the 'War Room Report'.
The war room was established to monitor progress and implement solutions on Prasa on the quality of service, safety and security among other things.
Buqa, meanwhile, said in his affidavit that apart from being promised that their contracts would be renewed from month to month, until the tender process was finalised. Prasa also promised them a month’s notice to find alternative postings for the workers. Thus, he said, they should at least be paid until the end of December.
He said all the security companies received a letter from Prasa on September 30, in which they were told that their services would be terminated on October 31. But on October 30, Prasa had sent a text message in which it said their contracts had been extended to the end of November.
Buqa said with the month’s notice promised to them, they expected to work until the end of December. In spite of placing Prasa on terms to honour this undertaking, it refused to do so, he said.
Acting manager at Prasa’s security, Mandisa Mokwena, in opposing the application, said Prasa’s group CEO terminated the contracts in a letter dated September 30. She said the text message sent at the end of October by a regional manager, informing them that their contract had been extended by a month, was wrong. A follow-up message was sent in this regard.
She said only the CEO could extend the contract and it was legally terminated at the end of September.
Mokwena disputed that the applicants are entitled to render services to Prasa until it appointed a new service provider. She said the public protector’s “derailed” report in any event found that a number of contracts concluded between Prasa and the applicants were irregular.
Prasa has thus embarked on a fresh procurement process to reflect its changing needs and having regard to the comments made by the public protector. She said Prasa hoped to insource 70% of its security services.
Prasa has built closer relationships with external stakeholders, including the SAPS which has committed 1 100 Rapid Rail police to assist in keeping Prasa assets and commuters safe.
She said Prasa has also internally improved its processes to be more responsive to security planning and adaptive management processes. This includes conducting a weekly “war room” meeting where security matters will be discussed.
The urgent application is meanwhile standing down to Tuesday (Nov 19) as it was not ready to proceed.