Sipho Mabena
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
19 Mar 2019
6:00 am

Prasa guards in court today for alleged attempt to rob themselves

Sipho Mabena

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa has seen sweeping changes to its executive in a turnaround bid.

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The embattled state agency is grappling with crumbling infrastructure, unreliable service and crashes. One of the casualties of the shake-up is the agency’s security boss, Joseph Makhura.

Members of his unit are due in court today on charges of attempted robbery.

Fourteen members of Makhura’s protection services unit were arrested in an alleged bid to rob the agency’s headquarters in Pretoria in November last year.

The group appearing in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court allegedly tied up two security guards and demanded keys for the agency’s Toyota Quantum vehicles.

Makhura has been replaced by former SA Revenue Service deputy commissioner Mandisa Mokwena, who has been responsible for developing the agency’s security strategy.

According to an internal communique, Makhura would continue to provide corporate security support, while a position was being considered for him within the organisation.

The technical and rail engineering services units also merged until a new operating model and organisational structure was finalised. This included engineering functions elsewhere in the agency, such as Corporate Real Estate Solutions.

“The integration of technical and rail engineering services into a single unit must take into account that rail business requires reliable, available and safe services if it is to deliver on its mandate,” the internal memo stated.

Prasa has been described as being in a state of near paralysis.

According to Dr Willem Sprong, technical director of railway engineering at Gibb Engineering, Prasa is battling with ageing infrastructure, which resulted in nearly 50 collisions or derailments last year alone.

The recent incident in which President Cyril Ramaphosa was stuck in a train en route from Mabopane to Pretoria for two hours while on the campaign trail highlighted the daily struggles of commuters.

“Asset and infrastructure reliability and availability should be at the centre of Prasa’s turnaround for rail to become a model of choice and to offer a safe and predictable commuter and passenger service.

“The execution and rollout of the R172 billion government investment programme to transform rail passenger travel is more urgent than ever,” the internal memo said.

Prasa did not respond to a request for comment.

Prasa appointments:

  • Nathi Khena: acting head of Corporate Real Estate Solutions.
  • Dries van der Walt: acting CEO: Prasa Rail
  • Fani Dingiswayo: acting company secretary
  • Jacob Rakgoathe: acting general manager: enterprise risk
  • Martha Ngoye: group executive: legal and compliance
  • Ranti Mahlabana: acting group executive: human capital management.