UniteBehind, a civil society coalition of more than 20 organisations, has welcomed Tuesday’s Western Cape High Court judgment setting aside Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s appointment of Bongisizwe Mpondo as the administrator of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).
In March launched a court application to overturn Mpondo’s appointment. In its court application, UniteBehind activist Zackie Achmat, highlighted that there was no provision in the Legal Succession Act – which governs Prasa – that empowers a minister to appoint an administrator in the place of a board.
Legally, Prasa can only appoint an administrator through an act of Parliament or through the court.
In a statement on Tuesday, the organisation described the judgment as a victory for commuters “who bear the pain of Prasa and the department of transport’s failures on a daily basis”.
UnitedBehind said the ruling “paves the way for an immediate appointment of a permanent and competent board to stabilise Prasa” and begin fixing the country’s dilapidating rail system.
On Tuesday, Judge Nathan Erasmus set aside the appointment of Mpondo as the Prasa administrator. Mbalula was also instructed to appoint a board within 60 days and the National Treasury, which was listed as a respondent in the case, was directed “to approve or instruct another functionary of a public enterprise to be Prasa’s accounting authority”.
In a statement, Mbalula said he would respond after reading the full written judgment. He appointed Mpondo in December last year after dissolving Prasa’s interim board in a move he said was aimed at stabilising Prasa to ensure quality railway services.
UniteBehind said Tuesday’s judgment gives Prasa “an opportunity to return to legality and avoid the risks posed by decisions that do not follow the provisions of the law”.
It added that the “tragic irony of this is that the ongoing hearings at the Zondo commission on Prasa and other state entities, have shown how much the disregard of the law costs the public”.
The commission has in recent weeks heard evidence relating to how tenders were diverted to company executives amid infighting between the boards and management.
This has all been happening as the parastatal’s infrastructure has been destroyed and commuters left without a safe and reliable form of public transport.