Transport minister warns Prasa board to toe the line

Cape Town - Newly appointed Transport Minister Joe Mawanganyi warned the board of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) on Tuesday that it shouldn’t occupy the media space for the “wrong reasons”.

Briefing journalists ahead of his maiden budget speech in Parliament, Mawanganyi said the entities that fall under the Transport Department are not “autonomous” and the boards should remember they’re accountable to him as a representative of the shareholder department.

“The boards don’t come up with independent policies. They need to appraise us of their activities and they are integral organs of our department. They don’t run programmes outside the department,” he said.

Prasa board chairperson Popo Molefe has spoken to the media on a number of occasions to air his concerns about the state of affairs at Prasa.

Mawanganyi was appointed as new Transport Minister when President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet on March 31, replacing Dipuo Peters.

His predecessor was mired in controversy when she unexpectedly dissolved the Prasa board on March 8 and appointed an interim one on March 13 under the chairmanship of former Sanral boss Nazir Alli.

Peters was believed to get rid of the board because of its decision to dismiss Collins Letsoalo as acting Prasa CEO after the Sunday Times reported that he increased his salary from R1.7m to R5.9m per annum in October.

Letsoalo claimed he had been seconded to Prasa and accused the board members of lying and said they had known of each and every step taken ahead of his appointment, including his salary increase.

Molefe subsequently filed an urgent court application to declare the board's dissolution unlawful, to reinstate the board, and to prevent an interim board from being appointed.

Judge Peter Mabuse ruled in April in the North Gauteng High Court that Peters’ decision to dissolve the board was irrational. He also set aside her appointment of an interim board and ordered that the previous board be reinstated.

Peters, who resigned as an ANC member of Parliament a week before the court judgment, was ordered to pay the former board's legal costs.

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