Mbalula says claims that new Prasa chief is too old are 'sensationalist'

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula in May 2020.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula in May 2020.
Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu
  • Fikile Mbalula condemned reports on Zolani Matthews' age as "an unfounded fabrication which has been circulating widely on social media platforms".
  • Reports emerged that Matthews was 64, while Prasa's policy stipulates that anyone assuming the position cannot be older than 63.
  • Prasa has been rocked with instability in the position of CEO, with 10 people serving in an acting capacity since 2015.

Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula has slammed reports, which emerged during the day, that newly appointed Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) group CEO Zolani Matthews was too old to serve in the position as "sensationalist".

GroundUp reported on Friday that Matthews, who is reportedly 64, was too old to serve as Prasa's group CEO because the policy of the agency stipulated the position could not be occupied by someone over the age of 63.

Prasa has been rocked with instability in the position of CEO, with 10 people serving in an acting capacity since 2015 after former CEO Lucky Montana left. Like many state-owned entities, Prasa has also been the target of the state capture project, with a host of costly procurement blunders.

Mbalula condemned the reports as "an unfounded fabrication which has been circulating widely on social media platforms".

He said the policies of the agency were adhered to when Cabinet approved the appointment, and the Department of Transport announced it last week.

Mbalula made much fanfare of Matthews' appointment last week, calling it the beginning of a new era for Prasa.

"In terms of due process, following Cabinet approval of the appointment, the Board is expected to ensure all requisite processes are followed in effecting the appointment," said Mbalula. 

The statement from Mbalula did not clarify Matthews' age, nor did it say definitively if the initial reports regarding the matter were false.

Mbalula took exception to comparisons made between Matthews and former acting CEO Cromet Molepo, saying Molepo was found to have actively misled Prasa regarding his personal details in contravention with the agency's policies.

Mbalula said, in the spirit of allowing stability and continuity at Prasa, Matthews should be allowed to serve, as he is expected to assume the position of CEO soon.

Former ANC MP and Prasa chair Leonard Ramatlakane told Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts that one of his key priorities at the agency would be ensuring that the critical vacancies are filled.

Prasa also issued a statement on Friday night saying that it was "dismayed by the reports and labeled them as "ignorant" and "at worst malicious".  The agency added that its chairperson will address the media about this on Monday.

"The process [of appointing Matthews] was completely above board and was guided by relevant policies applicable to Prasa," read its statement.

Matthews was appointed as councillor at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in September, but has reportedly left since. His appointment to the ports regulator was announced in June 2020

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