Another court order for Prasa to pay security companies

Cape Town - Prasa's troubles mounted on Tuesday after the Western Cape High Court ordered it to pay the R7.3m it owes two companies for security services by the end of business on Tuesday.

This after the sheriff of the court attached seven Prasa coaches on Monday in lieu of the R2.4m owed to Chuma Security in a separate matter.

Earlier on Tuesday Chuma Security and Supreme Security Services returned to court to submit an application stating that collectively they had been unable to pay the salaries of about 760 security guards stationed on Cape Town's northern and Central lines because Prasa owed them money.

The guards work along the commuter routes to Strand, Wellington, Langa, Bonteheuwel and Khayelitsha and are considered an important deterrent to crime on trains.

The companies argued that without guards commuters could be in danger and the unpaid salaries could also spark labour unrest.

Court papers filed on their behalf said they had been sent abusive text messages by staff demanding their salaries and managers at both security companies were being confronted by angry staff desperate for their pay. The guards had also approached the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration over the non-payment of their salaries.

Cash flow problems

They earn between R2 000 and R3 400 per month based on invoices for unarmed guards at R10 733 each and armed guards at R11 183 each.

A number of guards had already absconded because they were not being paid and the companies were fined R500 in each instance for this.

The companies also want to be paid interest of R18 901.37.

Their attorney Mark Hess said if Prasa did not pay by the end of Tuesday he would start proceedings to have more of its assets attached.

Comment on Tuesday's order was not immediately available from Prasa but on Monday Prasa spokesperson in the Western Cape Riana Scott said the parastatal was aware of its obligations but was having cash flow problems.

In the latest application Chuma Security is owed R2.4m and Supreme Security Services is owed two payments of R2.4m each.

'I don't even sleep'

Acting Judge Leslie Weinkove also ordered that interest be calculated from the day of the order, September 13, to the date of payment and that Prasa and the second respondent, Interstate, pay the security companies' attorney costs.

The application was observed by a group of the security guards waiting for their money.

"I have not been paid since 7 August," said one woman speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The shops are chasing me and at home I am the bread winner," she said close to tears.

"I don't even sleep, I don't even know what day it is."

She is behind on her rent and credit account payments and is worried that she will be blacklisted.

Her child has not been able to go to school because his transport provider won't accept her explanations anymore - that she has a job, but just has not been paid yet.

"I am a security guard and it is a very dangerous job," she said trailing off.

Insolvency fears

Sithethi Ngcwangu, a managing member of Chuma Security, said his staff did not believe him when he explained that he could not pay them until Prasa paid him.

"The guards thought I was withholding the money. They sent me terrible messages."

Supreme Security Services' Richard Loops said he had to borrow money to cover staff costs until he could no longer get any loans.

"It is a major problem."

The companies were awarded the contracts in May 2011 and this is their sixth application to force payment since 2013.

They fear that Prasa may be insolvent.

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