Ousted Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) chairperson Popo Molefe and six board members must be reinstated, the High Court in Pretoria has ruled.
Judge Peter Mabuse set aside former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters’ decision on March 8 to remove the board and ordered that they must be reinstated retrospectively.
He also set aside the appointment of an interim Prasa board with effect from Wednesday this week and ordered the transport minister to pay the costs of the application.
Peters resigned as a member of parliament last week after she lost her job to Joe Maswanganye in President Jacob Zuma’s March 31 Cabinet reshuffle. Judge Mabuse found that Peters had acted arbitrarily and had caused the former board substantial prejudice by denying them the right to be heard before she fired them. They had a clear right to challenge the decision.
“[They] have right to the proper exercise of statutory powers by the minister, who exercises public power and whose decision in this regard is subject to administrative justice.
“It is in the public interest that the affairs of Prasa be properly regulated by an independent Board of control independently of any interference from the government.
“It is of paramount importance that corruption in Prasa be exposed and prevented. The public had an interest to fight the deep rooted corruption in the country because it compromises the democratic ethos, the institutions of democracy and gnaws at the rule of law.
“The fact that the minister had already appointed a new board made the matter, in my view, extremely urgent. The applicants had to take steps to challenge the appointment of the new board because the minister proceeded with the appointment despite the fact that that it had been indicated to her that her decision would be challenged and before the new board could take root,” he said.
The ousted board members contended that their summary removal would deny Prasa of intimate knowledge of continuing investigations of corruption and maladministration.
They said their reputations had already been harmed and if the decision was left unchallenged, the public would continue to perceive them as having mismanaged Prasa’s affairs and running it into the ground.