File Picture: Photo Simphiwe Mbokazi/ African News Agency (ANA)
File Picture: Photo Simphiwe Mbokazi/ African News Agency (ANA)

Prasa's R22m debt may lead to Park Station coming to a halt

By Khaya Koko Time of article published Feb 20, 2020

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Thousands of Gauteng passengers will pay for a R22million debt owed by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), which could have its assets, including trains, attached tomorrow.

The legal action could see thousands of commuters who depend on trains at Joburg’s Park Station daily becoming stranded as the entity’s coaches face possible seizure by the court.

Prasa was on Thursday at the South Gauteng High Court, denied its appeal application seeking to overturn a September judgment allowing its assets to be attached for not paying service provider Mbita Consulting.

Mbita’s emboldened legal representatives told The Star that following the ruling, which also delivered a costs order against Prasa, Park Station would come to a halt as the sheriff would stop the trains from moving should Prasa not pay up within 48 hours from Wednesday.

“We feel sorry for the passengers, but they would need to speak with Prasa because it has been defying court orders since 2015 to pay a contracted service provider.

“We will also attach and remove computers, desks and other equipment from Umjantshi House (Prasa’s offices in the Joburg CBD),” said a member of Mbita’s legal representatives, who asked to remain anonymous.

“In fact, we will start in the finance department before the employees’ salaries are sent through ahead of next week’s pay day.

“The employees will have to take that up with their leaders in Tshwane when they don’t get paid. People have lost their jobs at Mbita and it’s time Prasa feels the pain,” the lawyer added.

The R22m, which includes an annual 10% interest rate since November 2015, is for the cleaning services that Mbita provided for more than two dozen Prasa-owned train stations, which were taken care of from November 2012 to July 2017.

The Star has seen the warrant of attachment against Prasa, as well as yesterday’s court order made by Judge Brian Spilg dismissing the entity’s bid to prevent the seizure of its assets.

The parastatal is in a precarious cash position following the release of its 2016/17 financials, which were revealed a year later than expected, showing that it suffered a staggering loss of R928m.

Mbita’s managing director Russell Mbiza contended yesterday that Prasa was in this dire position because successive managers within the entity were embroiled in repeated personal litigations, such as the one with his company, because they were misusing taxpayers’ money and not money from their own pockets.

Mbiza said he had to retrench 400 workers in his company’s cleaning business and a further 30 in the transportation division due to Prasa’s non-payment.

The Star sent questions, including Judge Spilg’s ruling, to Prasa’s communications department on Wednesday

The department acknowledged receipt of the questions and has promised to answer.

It did not respond to questions at the time of publication despite repeated enquiries as to whether the parastatal would be answering or not.

However, Prasa had told The Star that Mbita had no case against it, and alleged that its service provider had tried “unlawfully to extract money” from it for two years. 

 @khayakoko88

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