The Deputy Minister for Transport, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) interim board, Metrorail and the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) provided action steps that would lead to the resolution of the crisis on the railways. The meeting had been postponed from the previous week because PRASA interim board had failed to attend the meeting despite the Committee adjourning the morning meeting until 2.00pm to enable PRASA interim board to catch a flight from Johannesburg to attend the meeting. Although, the Committee had resolved to subpoena the PRASA interim board, the Committee had received a letter from PRASA interim board before the subpoena process was completed, assuring it of the board’s attendance. The Committee advised the Minister’s board representative to sort out the communication challenges between PRASA and DoT.
The Committee received briefings from #UniteBehind, the United Commuters’ Voice on commuter safety. Although the #UniteBehind brief included state capture, governance and an emergency safety plan, the Committee said it would not deal with state capture because it was not part of the agenda. The Committee would decide how state capture would be interrogated in another meeting.
The brief by #UniteBehind referred to threats by PRASA officials to #UniteBehind members during a stakeholder meeting, the plight of commuters as a result of the suspension of the Cape Town Central line for over five weeks, personal testimonies of commuters sacked due to lateness caused by the rail crisis, death of commuters due to inadequate security on trains, PRASA safety and security challenges and recommendations to resolve the challenges. The United Commuters’ Voice spoke about the challenges faced by commuters which included nepotism and infighting amongst PRASA officials. The stakeholders appealed to the Committee to intervene to get PRASA urgently to reopen the Central line to Khayelitsha, which has been shut down for five weeks following incidents of vandalism and robbery.
The Deputy Minister for Transport remarked that PRASA was a state owned entity and anybody had the right to interact with it. She would meet with #UniteBehind and United Commuters’ Voice (UCV) for an opportunity to further clarify what they had raised. She appreciated that #UniteBehind and UCV had provided practical steps to remedy the rail system challenges. PRASA needed to work with both organisations to resolve these. She observed that the challenges in rail services had been persistent. Although there had been delays in constituting a permanent PRASA board, it would soon be installed which would assist in curbing the challenges.
The Committee said that no stakeholder would be intimidated for making a presentation and assured stakeholders that Parliament was a secure place to air their views. It encouraged #UniteBehind to open a case against PRASA officials who had threatened its members. It asked that the whistleblowing documents on PRASA and Metrorail be given to the Committee for further investigation.
The PRASA briefing included updates on train accident investigations, plans to prevent future accidents, progress on support for affected families and victims of train accidents, PRASA asset destruction, impact and solutions, the Safety indaba, causes of delays and line suspensions such as vandalism and signal cable theft, interventions for safe working during manual train authorisations (MTAs), plans for security on the Central line and use of Gauteng technical staff from to assist with getting the Central line back on track. The accelerated turnaround plan for Metrorail was increased train set availability, ad-hoc contractor coach recovery, in-house rolling stock coach recovery, wrecked coach recovery, use of drones to improve security, improved supply chain policies for tenders, securing of rail corridors by involving community contractors, proposed wi-fi provision on trains and stations to allow commuters to download the MetroGo app and improved communication services. To secure Metrorail, PRASA had partnered with City of Cape Town to provide 1,500 up-skilled PRASA security employees to become law enforcement officials that guarded against copper theft. Also partnerships with Transnet to reduce speed restrictions had been introduced. PRASA reported that the Central line would be in operation by Wednesday 21 February 2018.
The Railway Safety Regulator spoke about the status of its investigations of PRASA related incidents, reasons for manual train authorisations (MTAs), RSR special conditions for MTAs as a prohibition directive to PRASA which included improved supervision of MTAs if they had to occur, safety initiatives for 2018/19 and 2019/2 which included establishing a platform for regular engagements between RSR and high risk operators to agree on minimum safety objectives, enhanced safety management systems (SMS) and implementation of safety risk models. It gave an overview of the status of regulations that needed to be published.
Metrorail explained what had happened to warrant the closure of the Central line and its efforts to reopen it. It assured the Committee that Metrorail was working around the clock to ensure that it met the date of reopening the Central line by 21 February2018.
Members asked the PRASA interim board if it had made inputs into the brief given by the PRASA executive. They must claim ownership of the brief as it was the accounting authority. In response the board admitted it was not apprised of the response given by PRASA executives about the concerns of stakeholders because the interim board had not received the invitation in time. Members were disappointed in the response of the PRASA interim board and its executive to the safety challenges. They had not addressed any of them and merely recapped solutions presented to the Committee earlier.
The Committee thus requested that the PRASA interim board have an in-house caucus meeting on the way forward and adjourned the meeting until the afternoon. Members observed that the board had not attended to the urgent challenges that the Committee had asked it to sort out as resolved in the 6 February meeting despite the fact that these were 2017 issues. Members said the PRASA board had been inconsiderate of the plight of train commuters. The closure of the Central line had caused much suffering. PRASA should have used buses to assist vulnerable commuters. Members said that the PRASA briefing was embarrassing because it did not address any of the concerns raised by #UniteBehind on commuter challenges. The PRASA board had to provide action steps and timelines to resolve the crisis rather than addressing supply of parts, drones and securing of rail corridors. Members also asked the board questions about approval of senior level staff appointments and policy, procurement, the delayed annual report, signalling equipment, the Kroonstad train accident investigation report, the relationship between PRASA and Department of Transport, the tender for securing train corridors, proposed wi-fi provision on trains and at stations, and the questionable appointment of a tainted individual.
Members asked RSR about the penalties collected from operators, train accidents, its financial sustainability, linkages between management key performance indicators and action, and its safety standards.
Members again expressed concern about the troubles experienced by the Khayelitsha community as a result of the suspension of the Central line. What intervention measures could be put in place to enable the Central line to open before 21 February 2018? The decision to reopen the Central line only on 21 February was not acceptable. It advised PRASA to consider a multi-disciplinary approach that will involve the Metro police, the South African Police Service and the Intelligence Service to develop a safety plan to protect both passengers and prevent cable theft.
The Acting Chairperson remarked that the Committee did not get the results anticipated from the meeting but hoped that the PRASA interim board understood that the rail system was in crisis mode. The Committee requested that PRASA present action steps, clear time lines to resolve the crisis and answer the comments and questions of the Committee and stakeholders.
The Acting Chairperson, Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC), recalled that the 6 February 2018 meeting was not held because the PRASA Board was not available, the decision to subpoena PRASA interim board and she acknowledged the receipt of a letter from PRASA interim board the previous week which indicated that it would attend the meeting scheduled for 13 February 2018. He pleaded with Members to stay action on the decision to subpoena the interim Board as the letter was received before the subpoena was finalised. He invited the interim board chairperson to give the reasons for the board not attending the 6 February 2018 meeting.
Ms S Xego (ANC) asked the interim Board to introduce itself as it was the first time it was appearing before the Committee.
The PRASA interim board chairperson, Adv Tintswalo Makhubele, introduced her team and read apologies from two board members. She explained the reason for the interim board’s non-appearance was due to a communication challenge between the interim board and PRASA executive. She added that there was a matter before the High Court on 19 February 2018 between #UniteBehind and PRASA. Hence, PRASA would not be able to discuss any governance matters that concerned the litigation it had with #UniteBehind. PRASA was pleased to note that the agenda was on rail safety.
Mr Ramatlakane appreciated the interim board Chairperson for clarifying matters but Adv Makhubele had discussed the court matter between it and #UniteBehind which he had not referred to. He asked for Members’ comments.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) remarked that the board chairperson’s response indicated a serious communication challenge between the interim board and PRASA executive. However, even if the interim board had communication challenges with its executive, the interim board should have confirmed before the meeting.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the Committee had sent a clear letter to the interim board through the Minister for Transport but did not know what happened between the Department and PRASA interim board.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) said that the interim board was attempting to decide what the agenda of the meeting should be. He said that the decision of the interim board not to discuss some issues was ‘rubbish’.
Mr Ramatlakane asked Mr De Freitas to withdraw the word ‘rubbish’ because his language was too harsh.
Mr De Freitas withdrew the word ‘rubbish’ and apologised.
Mr T Mpanza (ANC) accepted the explanation but remarked that the protocol was for a board to accompany any entity that appeared before the Committee.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) said that it was enough for the interim board to stick to apologies and refrain from dabbling into other matters. The Committee had invited the interim Board through proper channels and it could not decide the agenda of the meeting. Also if a communication breakdown occurred it was between the interim board and the Minister and the interim board could not decide who appears before the Committee. Members supported the proposal to withdraw the subpoena and asked Mr George Maluleke Acting DoT DDG and the Minister’s board representative to sort out the communication challenges between PRASA and DoT. He proposed that the Committee continue with the agenda of the day as people had died on trains and the Committee needed to sort out the crisis affecting the rail sector.
Mr Ramatlakane invited the PRASA board chairperson to comment.
Adv Makhubele replied that in the event that the subpoena was issued then it would lead to an inquiry. Hence, the board had issued a letter that captured the events that led to its non-attendance of the meeting. She apologised for going outside the question asked by the Acting Chairperson and hoped that the letter sent to PRASA would guide the meeting.
Mr Ramatlakane said that #Unite Behind’s presentation contained issues of state capture, governance and emergency safety plan. However because state capture was not part of the mandate of the Committee, it had to decide on how to deal with the state capture issues in its next meeting. He observed that one of the stakeholders from the commuters association wanted to comment and he invited the stakeholder.
Mr Riyanda Mbele, United Commuters Voice (UCV) chairperson, said that he had earlier interacted with the Committee on UCV’s preparedness to present a brief but his request had not yet being entertained.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the Committee would decide on how it would handle UCV’s request.
Mr Hunsinger asked for clarity on how the document received from #Unite Behind would be tabled because it included sections on governance, state capture and emergency safety plan.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the Committee was not blaming #UniteBehind for submitting a well-rounded document but would only deal with the emergency safety plan and governance. He invited #UniteBehind to brief the Committee.
Ms Vuyiswa Vuka, #UniteBehind Organising Secretary, said that PRASA had a stakeholder meeting on 17 January 2018 and during that meeting PRASA had threatened #UniteBehind members and the PRASA officials that had threatened its members were in the room. She thus requested that the identified PRASA officials that had threatened its members would need to vacate the meeting venue.
Mr Ramatlakane invited Members to comment.
Mr Sibande said that no stakeholder would be intimidated for making a presentation. Parliamentary meeting venues were secured, anyone presenting was protected. Therefore, the Committee would not ask anyone to leave the meeting venue. He encouraged #UniteBehind to make its presentation.
Mr De Freitas said that anyone presenting a brief was protected but such protection could not be guaranteed outside Parliament. Issuing threats against another person was very serious and perpetrators needed to be prosecuted.
Deputy Minister for Transport, Ms Sindiswe Chikunga, said that PRASA was a state owned entity and anybody had the right to interact with it at any time. A case should be opened against the identified PRASA officials that had threatened its members. The rules of conduct for Members stated the language that could be used to address people and she was happy that the Acting Chairperson had asked Mr De Freitas to withdraw the word he used to qualify the decision of the interim board not to discuss some issues. She apologised further on behalf of PRASA interim board for its previous absence and said that it was a miscommunication, but it was not justified.
Mr M Shelembe (NFP) asked the Deputy Minister to clarify if the interim board needed to report to the Committee or the Ministry of Transport.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the Deputy Minister was trying to explain the line of accountability. #UniteBehind had a right to open a case against any identified PRASA officials that had threatened its members. He invited #UniteBehind to brief the Committee.
Ms Vuyiswa Vuka, #UniteBehind Organising Secretariat, gave an overview of the transport situation in Cape Town, saying that the Central line had been closed for over five weeks, the rail service was in a crisis and people were dying. Commuters who did not have any other alternatives to commute had to hang on the outside of full trains to get to get to work because of fear of losing jobs and desperation to feed their families. The closing of lines and delays had led to commuters losing jobs.
Mr Warren Johnson, a commuter from Elsies River, stated that trains were so full that people had to hang on the roofs, windows and in between coaches. Commuters had been robbed and ladies had been touched in inappropriate places. His employer used to phone Metrorail to find out if the trains were late, but went ahead to fire him. The use of trains to commute was not dignified and he pleaded with the Committee to ensure that the dignity of commuters was restored.
Ms Zoliswa Dlamini, a commuter from Khayelitsha, stated that she used to start work at 7.00am but due to the delayed trains she always got to work late. This led to her being demoted in 2008, given warnings in 2012 and finally retrenched despite putting in 13 years of service at work. It was most painful to realise that she was retrenched for someone who had worked for only four years because the person did not need to commute as she resided near the office. She had been unemployed ever since she had been retrenched.
Mr Leslie van Minnen, Chairperson: Rail Commuters Action Group (RCAG), part of the #UniteBehind coalition, gave a personal testimony of how his son had been shot and killed 17 years ago on a train. He had taken PRASA to court but the matter was still ongoing and safety had not improved in the Western Cape and other provinces since safety breaches still occur. Also promises of action plans had not improved the situation as citizens were raped, robbed and thrown out of moving trains. He expressed concern about ill equipped and untrained guards, lack of access control on trains and stations that allowed criminals to get off and on trains, lack of deployment of guards, lack of train marshals and close circuit television (CCTV) at train stations. Also PRASA did not communicate with commuters on trains and the state of the trains was atrocious. RCAG had filed a motion in court against PRASA to ensure that PRASA accepts the responsibility for safety and security in its trains and train stations.
Mr Zackie Achmat, #UniteBehind Organising Secretariat, stated that the urgent issues facing commuters on trains were safety and security collapse of PRASA services. governance issues were pending because PRASA did not have a permanent board. Also #Unite Behind had lodged reports from Treasury on PRASA staff implicated in corruption, mismanagement and maladministration to the Committee. A leaked memo on the state of the crisis in Western Cape Metrorail showed that some of its security staff had criminal and civil proceedings against them. Also some PRASA staff were involved in state capture and corruption. Further, some of the staff in Western Cape were not competent or adequately qualified.
Deputy Minister Chikunga asked #Unite Behind if it could forward the leaked memo and the list of staff involved in criminal and civil proceedings to the Office of the Minister.
Mr Achmat said that #UniteBehind would forward the documents to the Office of the Minister. A review of Metrorail’s current security plan showed that it was unreasonable, failed to address the fundamental rights of safety and security of a person, ignored the threat to safety from PRASA’s outsourced staff. There were indications of organised criminals at stations yet there are no plans by PRASA to secure stations. The old systems at PRASA were been militarized. Whistleblower documents are available to support the claims and can be presented to the Committee. Due to the collapse of service on the Central line, commuters have had to move to other modes of transport and the Northern line was heading for such a collapse as well.
#UniteBehind recommended the reopening of the Central line with adequate security, the employment of qualified security that would be supported by SAPS, protection of commuters particularly women and children through proper lightning and CCTV surveillance, separate coaches for women, children and people with disabilities, specific details and timeframes for safety plans that would be communicated to commuters, the provision of alternative forms of transport such as buses to commuters on lines that have been suspended or facing delays and a proposed plan on how delays can be stopped. #UniteBehind recommended that the Committee needed to ask PRASA to provide detailed information about security contracts, ensure that the Minister engages a credible PRASA board, ensure that security employed at PRASA are insourced, secure its stations and have a proper discussion on evolving rail issues with competent stakeholders. He appealed to the Committee to intervene to get PRASA to urgently reopen the Central line to Khayelitsha and surrounding areas, which has been shut down for five weeks following incidents of vandalism.
The Acting Chairperson asked Members if he could invite United Commuters Voice to brief them.
The Committee agreed saying it would add value to the deliberations of the Committee. It noted that it had not received a written submission from UCV.
United Commuters Voice briefing
Mr Riyanda Mbele, United Commuters Voice (UCV) Chairperson, introduced Mr Mpanze from the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). Commuters had been experiencing a lot of challenges getting to work to ensure their jobs were not lost. The mismanagement at PRASA had led to the daily challenges faced by commuters on trains. Nepotism and infighting were other reasons that had led to the challenges faced by commuters. He claimed that #UniteBehind had met with PRASA management.
Mr Achmat clarified that #UniteBehind had not met with PRASA management but had only sent PRASA management a letter.
Mr Ramatlakane asked the Deputy Minister to respond
Deputy Minister Sindiswe Chikunga stated that she would meet with #UniteBehind and UCV for an opportunity to further clarify issues that they had raised. She confirmed that although there had been delays, a permanent board will soon be installed at PRASA. She observed that rail services were still as challenged when she used the services during the 1970s and remarked that if improvement plans had been fully implemented, the rail system would have seen improvements. She appreciated that #UniteBehind and UCV had provided practical steps to remedy the situation. She stated that PRASA needed to work with both organisations to resolve issues that affected the rail system.
Mr Cromet Molepo, PRASA Acting Group CEO, stated that the purpose of the presentation was to report on progress in train accident investigations, plans to prevent future accidents, progress on support for affected families and victims of train accidents, updates on board management and oversight and responses to #UniteBehind issues. He highlighted the history of PRASA asset destruction, its impact on asset performance, the progress on the Kroonstad level crossing accident and Geldenhuis rear-end accident and interventions proposed by PRASA. He stated that SAPS had said that technical staff were destroying evidence by trying to repair tracks that had stolen copper portions. SAPS needed the tracks to be cordoned off until the evidence from the crime scene had been captured and this had led to delays in the repair of tracks. Also supplied equipment was stolen before they were put to use hence, PRASA is investing in solid concrete structures to safeguard supplied equipment. Vandalism and asset theft led to severe shortage of rolling stock and affected the number of coaches. Also theft of signal cables led to delays, theft of perway equipment led to risk of derailments, theft of rolling stock equipment led to delays and cancellations, vandalism of signal cables were a potential risk for rear end collisions and theft of signalling equipment were a danger to trains. Train delays and cancelations led to commuter backlash and possible burning of trains. PRASA needed the SAPS complement to secure trains and train stations. PRASA had participated in a national security indaba and would brief the Committee in a detailed written report. He identified 25 interventions divided into short term, medium term and long term interventions for safe working during manual train authorisations (MTAs). When PRASA arrested the security situation within a 15km area of the Central line, 70% of the challenges would be addressed. PRASA had sent dedicated technical staff from Gauteng to assist with getting the Central line back on track.
The accelerated turnaround plans were increased train set availability, ad-hoc contractor coach recovery, in-house rolling stock coach recovery, wrecked coach recovery, the proposed use of drones to improve security, securing of rail corridors by involving community contractors, proposed wi-fi provision on trains and at all stations to allow commuters to download the MetroGo app, and improved communication services. He gave an overview of its partnership with City of Cape Town to provide 1 500 up-skilled PRASA security employees to become law enforcement officials that guarded against copper metal thefts and partnerships with Transnet to reduce speed restrictions. He reported that the Central line trains would be in operation by Wednesday 21 February 2018.
Mr Ramatlakane asked the PRASA interim board to confirm if it was aware of the responses to safety issues presented by the PRASA executive.
The PRASA interim board chairperson, Adv Tintswalo Makhubele, opened the door of communication between the board and UCV and gave an overview of the line of communication. She was not sure when #UniteBehind had started communicating with the Board but said that the interim board had first heard of #UniteBehind in December 2017 when it had received its letter, but the matter had ended up in court. She encouraged the Committee to allow #UniteBehind to engage with the interim board. Due to the invitation to the Committee being received late, the board was not fully aware of the response given by the executive.
The Acting Chairperson said that PRASA needed to address the challenges identified by #UniteBehind and UCV. The safety challenges itemised by #UniteBehind and UCV had been raised by the Committee two years before. He expressed disappointment at the response of the PRASA interim board on the safety challenges because PRASA and its interim board had not addressed any of them but had just recapped solutions presented to the Committee earlier. Hence, he requested the PRASA interim board to have an in-house caucus meeting on the way forward and adjourned the meeting till after lunch.
The Acting Chairperson invited the RSR board chairperson to give its briefing to ensure that all briefs were interrogated together.
Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) briefing
Dr Nomusa Qunta, RSR board chairperson, introduced her team and asked the Acting CEO to present.
Ms Tsepo Kari, RSR Acting CEO, gave an update on the status of RSR investigations on PRASA related incidents at Gautrain, Elandsfontein, Kroonstad, Geldenhuis and Benoni. The investigations revealed reasons for the collision and derailments which included signalling problems, degraded conditions, miscommunications and manual train authorisations (MTAs). MTAs had to occur because of cable theft which affected signalling equipment. However, RSR had given special conditions for MTAs as a prohibition directive to PRASA which include improved supervision on MTAs if it had to occur. The safety initiatives for 2018/19 and 2019/20 include establishing a common platform for regular engagements between RSR and high risk operators to agree on minimum safety objectives that needed to be achieved by individual operators and implementation of safety risk models that reflect on hazard events, trains movements and non-movements and enhanced safety management systems (SMS). The safety initiatives include the phased introduction of regular railway management maturity assessment, successful pilot assessment using UK’s management maturity model (RM3) to assess areas of performance in Gauteng, address risks associated with collisions by strengthening communication between critical safety staff, establishment of industry work groups and interest groups and regular engagements with organised labour, interest groups and affected parties. She gave the status of regulations that needed to be published and stated that some of the challenges on trains were due to security issues.
Mr Sibande appreciated the bravery of presenters who went out of their way to brief the Committee but remarked that it was unfortunate that some of the presenters had not had enough time to highlight challenges faced by commuters. The Committee wanted the PRASA interim board to claim ownership of PRASA’s briefing. Mr Achmat had made it known that old systems at PRASA were being militarised and had a document obtained from whistleblowers. He asked if the document could be presented to the Committee.
Mr Sibande said the new trends PRASA speaks of are not what the Committee is aware of and so there are inconsistencies. The public can identify the people behind cable theft and gangsters so the activities of these people can be curbed with the assistance of the public. He expressed unhappiness with PRASA’s statement that supplied equipment was stolen before it was even used and asked for the financial implications of such losses. He asked for an explanation of risk management issues that affected funds.
Mr Sibande said commuters died at train stations and on trains while in the aviation industry the accidents were not much and he asked which entity was responsible for safety on trains. He asked PRASA to state measures used to mitigate signalling challenges and asked RSR to state its measures to ensure compliance by operators. He compared the protection of the rail system in Japan to that of South Africa which had trains operating at higher speeds yet had fewer train incidents. He asked if Mr Leslie van Minnen of the Rail Commuters Action Group (RCAG) had ever travelled on a train to clarify if he was not just making wild accusations. He asked for the relationship between SAPS and PRASA because #UniteBehind had alluded to the occurrence of organised crime on trains and at train stations. The Committee had spoken to RSR previously on signalling challenges yet it did not itemise any measures to get PRASA to stop this.
Mr Mpanza observed that from the briefing by stakeholders at the meeting, a platform had been raised by stakeholders for ongoing engagements with PRASA and RSR to resolve challenges faced by commuters on trains. However despite the proposed solutions, if they were not implemented improvements would not occur. He requested that PRASA and RSR jointly needed to present implementation plans with clear timeframes apart from annual performance plans because the rail system was in crisis. He proposed that the Committee needed to experience the challenges from the point of view of the masses rather than the state entities alone.
Mr Shelembe expressed disappointment that people had lost jobs, lives had been lost and the competence of inexperienced security staff had been raised. He asked PRASA if it was hearing such accusations for the first time and if it knew that commuters had to climb on train roofs and hang on windows to commute to work and school. He asked PRASA how often it carried out audits on people it employed and lifestyle audits of its staff based on the salaries received. He asked RSR to give a timeframe for when the Committee would access the accident investigation report.
Ms Xego remarked that the presence of commuters, who were the constituency of Members in Parliament, to speak about the challenges showed that the commuters were aggrieved. Hence she asked PRASA to resolve the challenges raised by commuters. She asked for the status of missing bodies in the train incidents mentioned and asked for clarity on who was responsible in the event that a commuter had an accident. She asked if PRASA had identified railway transportation risks and what methods it would use to address the risk. If the insourcing of security was the way forward to address security on trains and at train stations then the Committee was not against it. #UniteBehind and UCV needed to present the facts to the Committee to enable proper investigation to be conducted on identified corruption, mismanagement, maladministration, infighting and sabotage at PRASA and Metrorail. She asked PRASA to state its proposed interventions for vulnerable commuters that had weekly and monthly train tickets but experienced delays. She pointed out that PRASA was not correct in saying that it was not responsible for the safety of commuters on trains and at train stations. PRASA must ensure the safety of train commuters. The civil society organisations (CSOs) needed to engage with citizens that burn, vandalise or steal on trains with a view to stopping this.
Mr G Radebe (ANC) said that leaking of information should not be confused with whistleblowers because the whistleblowers assist with investigations. He asked PRASA and Metrorail to give clarity on the tender for securing train corridors as the Committee needed to ensure that it followed Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) rules. He asked about the proposed wi-fi on trains and at all stations because the former Group CEO did not approve the earlier tender. He asked about the appointment of a particular individual by PRASA when that individual had a criminal case with the Hawks and matters in court. #UniteBehind had recommended insourcing security staff to curb dangers on trains and he asked PRASA to state measures in place to ensure the safety of commuters. He disagreed about the PRASA claim that rail transportation of people was its mandate while security was not. He asked why PRASA had not deployed its buses to assist commuters that were delayed on Metrorail’s Northern line.
He asked RSR to confirm if it had collected penalties/fines from PRASA and for clarity on what happened to fines collected from PRASA because some of the RSR staff and service providers claimed that they had not been paid. He observed that the Kroonstad train driver had not been properly assessed hence he asked why there was no advance protocol to prevent such accidents. He asked RSR for an explanation for and an update on the Gautrain incident.
Ms N Nolutshungu (EFF) noted that PRASA had partnered with Golden Arrow at off-peak periods and RSR had mentioned that it had short, medium and long term interventions. She asked PRASA and Metrorail to state the measures put in place to address crises such as delays and suspensions of train lines. She asked for the contingency plan for safety and security on trains and at train stations and the plan for vulnerable groups that had tickets but could not commute on trains due to delays and suspensions of lines. She advised PRASA to form a relationship with the CSOs to tap into the solutions recommended to resolve the rail travel crisis. She proposed that PRASA and RSR give progress reports on the short term intervention strategies.
Mr De Freitas said that the PRASA brief was embarrassing because it did not address any of the concerns raised by #UniteBehind about commuter challenges. Commuters burnt trains and steal because they could not get to work. The PRASA brief did not address the delays and suspension of lines but addressed supply of parts, drones and securing of rail corridors instead of providing short term solutions such as deploying buses to transport people that were affected by delays and suspension of lines. He proposed that PRASA present a brief to address the concerns of commuters. Also PRASA and Metrorail need to ensure proper communication on trains so that commuters were informed.
Mr Hunsinger expressed concern about the harassment of #UniteBehind delegates by PRASA officials. He requested that engagements with #UniteBehind should be part of the resolution efforts. He asked for clarity on the entity that provided security for PRASA and Metrorail and why the promise of train guards and marshals had not being met because people entered trains without tickets. The Committee was not too excited about the opening of the Central line on Wednesday 21 February 2018 because he was not sure if the security challenges had been fully resolved. He asked PRASA and Metrorail to provide action steps and timelines for turnaround plans for trains.
He was happy about the proposed collaboration with SAPS but asked about the command centre and which entity would account for securing trains and train stations. He asked how it was possible that there were 80% convictions for theft cases in Gauteng while only 5% convictions were recorded in the Western Cape. He agreed with other Members that contingency plans had to be provided for commuters facing delays and suspension of lines immediately these happened and at no extra cost to the commuter. PRASA or Metrorail had to absorb the extra cost to provide the service.
Mr Hunsinger appreciated that RSR had stated that PRASA leadership needed to address governance issues, company culture, risk control and safety management through improved supervision. He asked RSR if the right approach to fix insufficient supervision and establish company culture was to impose penalties on the operator. He asked if there were linkages between management key performance indicators and actions. RSR stated that it was developing new safety and risk management models. If these models were lacking then RSR needed to state the current parameters used to evaluate PRASA on safety as compared with international standards.
Mr Hunsinger had expected the PRASA board to present on the current challenges of the train crisis and abnormal practices at PRASA. The abnormal practices included PRASA not submitting its 2016/17 Annual Report that the Committee had been expecting since 30 September 2017 and its outstanding supply chain management issues. He asked for the new framework that would determine the relationship between PRASA and DoT and set out the roles, responsibility and deliverables of the Board and shareholders. PRASA interim board had a lot to do and a solution needs to be found jointly with all stakeholders on board. The interim board had an attitude that the solution to the crisis would only come from the interim board, and other stakeholders should not intervene, but the Committee would not allow such attitude to carry on.
Ms D Magadzi (ANC) said that at the 6 February 2018 meeting the Committee had raised items that needed the urgent attention of the PRASA interim board even though the board was not present at the meeting. She observed that the board had not attended to these or given feedback to the Committee on these even though some of the issues were not new. She asked the board to clarify who ratified appointments of senior level staff. She asked if the board had to ratify changes in policy imperatives and operations. Most of the PRASA board committees had been disengaged so who had ratified the Acting Group CEO dealing with procurement. She wanted the board chairperson to respond because National Treasury had stated that it could not continue to release more money to PRASA based on such procurement. Treasury had also stated that procurement should be stopped for trains hired during the festive season. The 2015/16 Annual Report had pointed out wasteful and irregular expenditure. She believed that when the Committee receives the 2016/17 Annual Report more supply chain management issues might be discovered.
Ms Magadzi asked the PRASA executive to clarify that the disciplinary action on some staff was not purging as reported. During the 6 February meeting, Members were told that PRASA was not part of the Indaba but during his brief the Acting Group CEO had stated that PRASA was part of the indaba. Members were not people that the PRASA executive could deceive. She had stated last week that the Committee was aware that entities embarked on fiscal dumping at the end of the financial year even though the entities had not resolved service delivery challenges. Members were aware that when commuters had challenges in Mamelodi, Autopax, a PRASA subsidiary, had intervened by providing buses to convey commuters. She asked the board why PRASA had not deployed its unused buses to assist vulnerable monthly tickets holders who had paid for its service on the discontinued Central line. Memebers had experienced the suffering of people when they had visited Cape Town station on Friday 9 February 2018 at 6.00pm. At the taxi rank they had found long queues up to two km long. The commuters in the taxi rank queues were previously train commuters of the Central line which was suspended five weeks ago. She appealed to PRASA and its board to resolve the train crisis by applying lessons learnt from Mamelodi. She asked PRASA to consider repairing the trains at Kraaifontein. She was happy that the Central line trains would begin to operate again by 21 February 2018.
Ms Magadzi asked RSR for steps to ensure that manual train authorisations worked better to ensure fatalities were reduced. She asked RSR to send the Committee a detailed written response on recommendations that would assist PRASA leadership to resolve the challenges it had identified. She asked RSR to give recommendations to the Committee on how PRASA could engage with communities to reduce encroachment onto its rail reserves. She asked RSR to state measures to address deteriorating infrastructure and to repair wobbly rails to increase train speed.
The Acting Chairperson said PRASA was pleading to be released to ensure that it would not miss its flight. He suggested that it leave on the last flight because the PRASA interim board had not resolved the issues that needed urgent attention. The meeting would not be determined by flight times but would depend on successful resolution of challenges. He asked the PRASA chairperson to clarify if the brief presented by PRASA executives had inputs from the interim board or not. He asked the PRASA chairperson if the board expected that the Committee would accept the brief presented when it did not address the agenda nor the crisis in the rail system. He did not see that the interim board had a sense of urgency in providing a solution to the crisis and it was evidence of a lack of communication between the PRASA board and its executives. The PRASA board was failing citizens that lived in Cape Town as commuters in Khayelitsha had been struggling to commute to work for five weeks. Commuters had lost jobs, sources of income and livelihoods. He asked if the PRASA board was serious about the plight of commuters and was willing to resolve the rail crisis. News reports said that Central line services had been suspended because of the robbery and killing of drivers. He asked the PRASA board to confirm if management had signed an agreement with the union to suspend the train on the Central line. In the news reports, the issue of spares did not exist and that was a cover-up of the main issue. If PRASA was operating 3 500 manual train authorisations, it was operating in crisis mode. He asked the board to clarify who had to declare that the rail system needed maintenance. Why did it wait for #UniteBehind to present solutions to resolve the crisis and why had it parked trains that needed to be repaired in Kraaifontein when it had engineers? The PRASA board had not stated clear time frames to resolve the crisis. He asked the board to clarify why outsourced security could not provide security and if it was not a management weakness. He suggested that Members might have to decide if it needed to invite SAPS to secure trains and train stations because it appeared that security challenges were caused by infighting and sabotage to achieve a grand plan. He recalled that internal staff had burnt trains in Cape Town station. He wondered why Khayelitsha commuters were being punished. The board had not given practical steps to resolve the rail challenges and the Committee had therefore asked it to have an in-house caucus meeting on the way forward. The Acting Group CEO briefing was a repetition of what had been presented to the Committee in past meetings. The purpose of the meeting was to receive action steps that would lead to the resolution of the crisis on the railways. The Committee would listen to recommendation of engineers and there would be another round of questioning because the plan to reopen the Central line on 21 February 2018 was too far off. Many stranded commuters were suffering. The board must present practical clear cut solutions on the resumption of suspended services on the Central line to the Committee before the meeting could be adjourned. He invited the RSR board chairperson to answer questions.
Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) response
Dr Nomusa Qunta, RSR board chairperson, responded that the Gautrain commuter application permit issues were under investigation by its board committee. RSR had made some over-commitments on its cost drivers. Therefore, RSR had embarked on a turnaround strategy to become financially solvent. She confirmed that there had been times that staff salaries had been delayed. The disposition of RSR towards PRASA is not punitive or hostile. Imposing penalties on the operator might not be the right approach to fix insufficient supervision and establish company culture but it is a means to an end to resolve the situation.
Ms Tsepo Kari, RSR Acting CEO, replied that the RSR Act stipulated that it must conduct audits which it conducts. It recognised that penalties did not resolve the challenge therefore, it had introduced safety management systems (SMS) and targeted operators that were at risk such as PRASA. It is presently legislating SMS and introducing common safety methods which are a transparent standard for its operators. RSR is presently creating protocols where communications on manual train authorisations are done professionally, issuing directives to PRASA on driver training and is conducting technical reviews on signalling. The new trains would not function at optimal capacity because rail infrastructure is not in a good condition. She explained the reason that two bodies were not accounted for initially in the Kroonstad train accident. The investigation report alluded to the fact that the truck driver was not familiar with the area. The report did not refer to the train driver.
Mr Radebe asked the Acting CEO to clarify if the train driver was qualified and experienced.
Ms Kari replied that the investigation did not clarify if the train driver was qualified and experienced at the time of the investigation but confirmed that the truck driver was not familiar with the area. She said that the rail reserve regulations seek to manage the erection of residential properties on rail reserves.
Mr Mpanza noted that Mr Ramatlakane had sensitised stakeholders that the rail service was in crisis mode and this had to be elevated to ensure that practical steps were given to resolve the crisis on the Central line because the PRASA and RSR accounting authorities were present. Administrative issues could be dealt with at another meeting but practical steps to resolve the train crisis needed to be provided.
The Acting Chairperson remarked that the intervention was welcomed but the Committee needed to get direction from the PRASA board and its team.
Adv Makhubele, PRASA interim board chairperson, appreciated Ms Magadzi’s intervention in the telephone conversation of 6 February 2018. Some of the comments on safety that the PRASA Acting Group CEO had highlighted needed to be ratified by PRASA board committees hence she requested that PRASA needed to have a caucus meeting.
The Acting Chairperson accepted the proposal and adjourned the meeting for ten minutes.
Mr Ramatlakane observed that the PRASA interim board had used more than an hour on its caucus meeting and invited the PRASA chairperson to respond.
PRASA / Metrorail on Central Line reopening
Adv Makhubele, PRASA interim board chairperson, agreed that the brief by the Acting Group CEO had not addressed the concerns of #UniteBehind and UCV and the requests of the 6 February 2018 meeting. She said the PRASA interim board committed to addressing these through written reports. However, it would respond to the questions on the re-opening of the Central line through the PRASA regional manager.
Mr Richard Walker, Metrorail Western Cape manager, PRASA, gave context for what had happened to warrant the closure of the Central line on 10 January 2018. Metrorail had lost one of its train driver at Netreg station in a robbery where the driver was shot and killed after which there have continued incidents of thefts on that Central line. It is important to know that the Central line had been operating in a degraded mode for 18 months which means that signalling equipment from Langa station to Kaptensklip and Chris Hani was not functioning properly. Also, Metrorail had been operating on manual train authorisations in the section between Langa and Bonteheuwel due to damaged infrastructure in the area. This meant that Metrorail had challenges with the Mitchells Plain, Kapteinsklip, Khayelitsha and Chris Hani line for over nine months with only two lines available for these areas. This had been the situation until Metrorail took the decision to suspend rail services on the Central line. Metrorail had put two armed guards on the train at the back and front of the train but one of its guards had been shot and killed at Chris Hani station and the firearms of both armed guards were taken on 10 January 2018. After due consultation with the Acting Group CEO, management took a decision to suspend the line and started engagements with SAPS to put adequate measures in place for securing the trains. Staff had felt the security measures taken by Metrorail management were not adequate and staff agreed not to operate in that area. The region provided its report that it could not convince the drivers to go back into that area. Further engagements took place between Metrorail management and the PRASA executive level on measures that could be put in place to strengthen security.
Ms Magadzi asked Mr Walker to clarify the executive level that Metrorail had engaged.
Mr Walker replied that the executive level was the Acting CEO of PRASA and the Acting Group CEO. Metrorail provided a plan to re-introduce the services around 17 to 18 January 2018 after the line had been declared safe for operation by technical staff on 17 January 2018 and Metrorail planned to start operations the following day. However, further operational checks using a test train the next day led to the discovery of vandalised tracks that caused the test train to be derailed at Netreg and a slight injury to one of the train staff. Therefore Metrorail could not open the line despite implementing the additional safety measures it had assured labour unions would be in place. This included having armed guards at the turnaround stations and at hot spot stations such as Langa, Netreg, Bonteheuwel and Heideveld.
He informed the Committee that Metrorail had appointed 88 armed guards and armored vehicles that patrolled the area between Bonteheuwel and Philippi. Although, PRASA planned to open the area over the weekend between 3 and 4 February 2018, it found vandalised cables with 120 meters of cable removed in the area between Bonteheuwel and Philippi. Unfortunately, the point facilities to allow the trains to cross safely is not functioning because of the vandalism outside Philippi and three operator stations and the vandalism that occurred between the time the test train derailed on 17 January 2018 and on 3 and 4 February 2018. The engineering team that came to access the situation has taken decisions on site to bring in the services of contractors on an emergency basis to assist and it came up with the 21 February 2018 date. Unfortunately as part of their performance contracts, Metrorail managers would not want to rush to reinstate the Central line so as to ensure that commuters were not exposed to risks and would appreciate the presence of provincial RSR operatives to assist and be part of the inspection before the Central line is opened. He assured the Committee that Metrorail was working around the clock to ensure that it met the date of reopening the Central line by 21 February 2018.
Mr Ramatlakane asked Mr Walker to state the intervention measures that would be put in place before the Central line opened on 21 February 2018.
Mr Walker replied that given the conditions that Metrorail is operating under and the conditions on the Central line, the additional security deployed is to ensure that the recovery work done is not undone and the Central line reopens on 21 February 2018. He assured the Committee that there was a prerequisite that the area remain protected while the recovery process was in place and additional security had been deployed for safety to ensure that work being done was safeguarded.
The PRASA chairperson asked the Acting Group CEO and her team for further comments.
Mr Cromet Molepo, PRASA Acting Group CEO, reported that follow-up meetings on the negotiations took place between the evening of 17 and 18 January 2018. This involved all the stakeholders working on reopening the Central line.
Ms Natalie Scheepers, PRASA interim board member, reported that the board had discussed using buses to alleviate the suffering of people. However, Golden Arrow was over capacitated at the moment and did not have that number of staff on the ground.
Adv Makhubele, PRASA chairperson, said that Mr Walker had assured the interim board that there was a general contingency plan but PRASA would need to hire buses after conducting a study on how many people are involved. She asked Mr Walker to elaborate.
Mr Ramatlakane remarked that he was hesitant to listen to the explanation about buses by the PRASA chairperson and Metrorail regional manager, Mr Richard Walker. Earlier Ms Magadzi had spoken about the lessons learnt at Mamelodi and she was clear that the bus arrangement was through Autopax, a subsidiary of PRASA, and the Committee is aware that PRASA has buses. Also there is no way that Golden Arrow would release its buses to Metrorail or PRASA at peak time when it is supposed to be making money. PRASA needs to use its buses as a contingency to assist train commuters. He advised PRASA to consider a multi-disciplinary approach that will involve the Metro police, the South African Police Service and the Intelligence Service to develop safety plans to protect passengers and prevent cable theft.
Ms Magadzi stated that Mr Walker reported that the challenges had been going on for over a year. She asked the PRASA chairperson to state if PRASA had any think tank on what could be done to ease the situation before it had got to crisis mode. Also had PRASA considered community interaction within those 12 months to ensure that the situation did not deteriorate into crisis mode. The PRASA chairperson had been inconsiderate of the plight of train commuters. She asked if PRASA had even considered the commuters that had to use the trains as a necessity when it suspended the Central line. She asked the PRASA chairperson to state the outcomes of the negotiations with the trade union. PRASA and Metrorail staff were challenged by security risks and she asked the PRASA chairperson to state what alternatives could assist PRASA with security. She recalled the pain experienced by the Khayelitsha community as a result of the suspension of the Central line. Children, pregnant women and people with disabilities had been affected. She expressed anger at the response of Mr Richard Walker and the PRASA interim board. She proposed that the Committee and the PRASA executive and interim board chairperson needed to visit the communities together to ensure that it gives the commuters practical solutions.
Mr Hunsinger appreciated Mr Walker for the additional insight and remarked that he was not sure that what PRASA was proposing would resolve systemic problems in rail transport. The PRASA chairperson needed to provide a structured solution because Mr Walker had highlighted procurement challenges that had been occurring since 2015. It appears that PRASA has not provided any support to resolve this yet. The PRASA board must present the Committee with turnaround measures to systemic problems and PRASA needs to re-establish trust that it would be responsible in its service delivery mandate to commuters. The Committee is worried about procurement and the risks presented by security contracts and security appointments in PRASA. He requested that an investigation be conducted on security appointments and procurement at PRASA. The PRASA chairperson had not assured commuters or the Committee that the crisis was being resolved because cables could be fixed but security could not be addressed within a week. There is a communication problem between the PRASA executive and the interim board hence an emergency needed to be declared and contingency plans put in place.
Mr Radebe remarked that the PRASA interim board also needed to respond to the questions asked earlier.
Adv Makhubele, PRASA interim board chairperson, said that the last flight had just been announced and appealed to the Committee to release PRASA in time to catch the flight. She assured the Committee that it would address all questions and send written reports.
The Acting Chairperson asked the Committee to consider the plea from the PRASA chairperson.
Mr Mpanza stated that he would await answers from PRASA and he suggested that interrogations should come after the written responses had been received.
Mr Radebe agreed but requested that PRASA submit answers to the Committee in writing.
The Acting Chairperson said the reopening of the Central line on 21 February 2018 was not acceptable and the Committee would engage once more with PRASA because its position had not changed.
The PRASA interim board chairperson said that #UniteBehind and UCV should assist the board.
The Acting Chairperson remarked that the Committee did not get the results it anticipated but the Committee hoped that the PRASA interim board understood that the rail system was in crisis mode. He requested the action steps and clear timelines to resolve the crisis and answers to the Members’ questions.
The meeting was adjourned.
- #UniteBehind on Metrorail emergency safety plan; Commuter Operations & Safety: PRASA, Metrorail, Railway Safety Regulator, Transport Department 1
- #UniteBehind on Metrorail emergency safety plan; Commuter Operations & Safety: PRASA, Metrorail, Railway Safety Regulator, Transport Department 3
- #UniteBehind on Metrorail emergency safety plan; Commuter Operations & Safety: PRASA, Metrorail, Railway Safety Regulator, Transport Department 2
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