ATC150611: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Transport on its oversight visit to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), dated 2 June 2015



The Portfolio Committee on Transport, having undertaken an oversight visit to PRASA, ATNS and SACAA from 3 to 5 February 2015 in Gauteng, reports as follows:

  1. Introduction

The Portfolio Committee on Transport conducted an oversight visit to PRASA, ATNS and SACAA from 3 to 5 February in Gauteng. The objectives of the visits were as follows: (i)a site visit to PRASA’s Gauteng Nerve Centre to assess progress made with the construction of the centre, (ii) visits to ATNS and SACAA to engage with the entities on their Strategic and Annual Performance Plans. This report will provide an overview of observations and recommendations made by the Committee in its interaction with the entities.

  1.  Delegation

The delegation consisted of Ms D P Magadzi (Chairperson) (ANC), Mr MP Sibande (ANC), Ms P Boshielo (ANC), Mr S Radebe (ANC), Ms S Xego-Sovita (ANC), Mr L Ramatlakane  (ANC),  Mr C Hunsinger (DA) and  Mr T Mulaudzi (EFF). The support staff were Ms V Carelse (Committee Secretary), Dr S Ngesi (Committee Researcher) and Ms Z France (Committee Assistant).



  1. Background

The construction of the Gauteng Nerve Centre forms part of PRASA’s national resignalling project for which Siemens was contracted for the Gauteng portion of the project. It involved the removal of the existing signalling system and installation of the new signalling system.The Nerve Centre wouldact as the signalling control centre for the Gauteng passenger rail network.

Siemens has been contracted to build the centre at Kaalfontein located north of Kempton Park. The centre would enable the monitoring of all passenger train activity in Gauteng and was earmarked for completion by April 2015.  It was envisaged that train controls wouldstart being transferred to the new facility after the completion of the centre. The centre wouldenable greater efficiencies in rail operations and train safety, while offering a more frequent service through higher line capacity. This technology wouldmodernise PRASA’s rail network, which was almost obsolete in some areas. Having an upgraded rail infrastructure wouldallow PRASA to better monitor, control and manage its assets, enabling PRASA to deliver a more effective rail service to thousands of commuters across the country. It wouldenable PRASA to deliver improved rail services that will be used by more commuters. Upgrading of the existing rail infrastructure wouldincrease capacity and ensure more flexibility, greater safety and fewer train delays. A fully integrated monitoring system wouldpick up faults and any tampering with the network.

  1. Committee Observations

PRASA’s management, the PRASA Board and officials from Siemens took the Committee on a tour of the Nerve Centre, providing an overview of the facilities. The Committeereceived a briefing on the design of the centre and how it would operate once completed.A main feature of the centre was the command room housing a 52 metre-wide video wall that shows the movement of trains and all activity across the entire Gauteng rail network. The Committee was briefed on the power transformers installed in the adjacent building and the two uninterrupted power supply units that would provide power to train operation during Eskom power failures. Members were further briefed on the human resource requirements for the centre, facilities provided to staff and security measures that would be put in place at the facility.

The Committee was impressed by what it observed during the visit, as the Centre would applycutting edge technology to reduce train accidents and improve the frequency of train services. During its walkabout at Park Station, the Committee commended PRASA for the development of the precinct, but noted the absence of health care facilities for commuters at the station.

  1. Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the Minister of Transport ensures the following:

  1. That the Committee be kept abreast on a quarterly basis on the implementation of the Gauteng Nerve Centre.
  2. That the Nerve Centre system be replicated in other parts of the country.

3.3.3     That PRASA partners with the Department of Health to establish a health clinic at Park Station.

3.3.4     That PRASA be commended for using its property portfolio optimally with a view to generate income. PRASA is urged to replicate this approach, as observed at Park Station, at its other train stations.




  1. Background

ATNS was incorporated in 1993 in terms of Air Traffic and Navigation Company Act (No. 45 of 1993).The Act mandates ATNS to provide Air Traffic Management Solutions and associated services on behalf of the State, in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Standards, recommended practice, as well as the South African Regulations and Technical Standards.

ATNS is responsible for air traffic control in approximately 10% of the world’s airspace. It provides services to nine ACSA airports throughout South Africa on a statutory basis and to 12 regional airports in a contractual basis. It provides aerodrome and approach control services to the nineACSA airports and aerodrome services to the 12 regional airports. Approach procedural services are provided to 4 regional airports.

4.2        Visit to ATNS

The Committee met ATNS’s management and the Board Chairperson at its head office in Bruma, Johannesburg, to discuss ATNS’s strategic objectives. The meeting was followed by a visit to ATNS’s training facilities and air traffic control tower at O R Tambo International Airport.

4.3        Discussions

4.3.1     ATNS Strategic Plan

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) presented ATNS’s strategic imperatives to the Committee. The objectives were to deliver continuous improvement in safety performance, become a transformative organisation that invests in people, provide efficient air traffic management solutions and associated services, maintain long-term financial sustainability, play a leading role in the deployment of air traffic management (ATM) in Africa and selected international markets and deploy and use leading technologies for the benefit of the ATM community.

ATNS listed its achievements as follows: Staff numbers increased from 833 in 2009 to the current number of 1117. Over 400 air traffic control training bursaries were awarded to South Africa’s youth in the past fiveyears (18 – 30 years), at 2.85% (above national target) from 1.71% in 2009.

4.3.2     Air Safety

ATNS assured the Committee that the South African airspace was safe. The safety ratio was 1.67 below the target of 2 safety events per 100 000 air traffic movements airspace.Since 2009, ATNS had successfully deployed leading technologies to support an efficient and responsive airspace infrastructure. It implemented the ICAO Performance Based Navigation (PBN) concept in South Africa. Traffic delays were reduced overall.

4.3.3     Financial Sustainability

ATNS was focused on ensuring its financial sustainability. It had in place service level agreements for equipment availability.

4.3.4     Compliance with Legislation

ATNS complied with relevant legislation, regulations and standards and aimed to achieve an unqualified audit report for 2014/2015.

4.3.5     Human Resources and Skills Development

ATNSreviewed and implemented its human resource plan to recruit, develop, retain and reward employees across all disciplines and provided bursaries and engineering learnerships.  The representation of black racial grouping, with a particular focus on African and female representation,was increased towards creating alignment with the demographics of the country.


5.         Committee Observations

During discussions and during its site visit the Committee made the following observations:

5.1        ATNS was commended for its outward, market-driven approach and its professional management. The Committee noted that the ATNS Business Model was supported through attracting and developing a diverse team. The Committee further noted ATNS’s commitment to skills building for the industry. Over 400 air traffic control training bursaries had been awarded to South African youth over the past fiveyears. However, the Committee felt that maths and science education should be encouraged at primary school level in order to develop a skilled workforce for the future.

5.2        During the site visits at OR Tambo, the Committee noted the entity’s commitment to transformation and diversity, especially in relation to women representivity.

5.3        The Committee took note of the union’s court challenge to the essential service status of ATNS and urged the management to make every effort to ensure stability in its employee relations.

5.4        Vacancies in the entity’s Board of Control were impacting negatively on the decision- making ability of the Board.

5.5        The Committee noted the assurance from ATNS that the South African airspace was safe, but concern was raised about the effect of movement of privately-owned aircraft, without transponders, in controlled airspace.

5.6        The Search and Rescue Unit of ATNS required additional funding for its operations.


6.         Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the Minister ensure the following:

6.1        That vacancies in ATNS’s Board are filled within threemonths of the adoption of this report by the House;

6.2        That the Department initiate legislation that would require the fitting of transponders in general aviation aircraft;

6.3     That the Department allocate adequate funding to the ATNS’s Search and Rescue Unit for its operational requirements.



7.1        Background

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is a Schedule 3A public entity in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). It was established on 1 October 1998, following the enactment of the now repealed South African Civil Aviation Authority Act (No.40 of 1998). The abovementioned Act was repealed as a whole by the Civil Aviation Act (No.13 of 2009). The Act provides for the establishment of a stand-alone authority mandated with controlling, promoting, regulating, supporting, developing, enforcing and continuously improving levels of safety and security throughout the civil aviation industry. The SACAA is an entity of the Department of Transport.

During the visit, the Committee met with the Board, Director and Senior Managers of SACAA.  At the start of the visit, the Committee was introduced to learners enrolled in its cadet programme studying toward private and commercial pilot licences and aircraft engineering. The meeting was followed by a tour of SACAA’s facilities.

During discussions with the Committee, the Director of SACAA raised the following:

7.2        Air Safety

South Africa is a signatory to the Chicago convention and as a result SACAA subscribes to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 8 Critical Elements. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assesses South Africa on the above through its International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA). SACAA subscribes to the ICAO, and consequently is subject to the Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP).The CEO provided an overview of South Africa’s ICAO compliance. The levels are based on the 2007 audit, and stand at 83.67% Effective Implementation (EI). The Accident and Incident Investigation Division (AIID) was yet to be audited at any point, and this will further increase compliance levels.  A further review of the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) by ICAO was due. This should contribute to increased compliance levels should the CAP submissions be viewed as being favourable.

From a calendar-year perspective, the serious incidents, fatal accidents and fatalities have all decreased in the current year, taking into account a three-year comparison. The number of regulatory proposals to further improve safety within General Aviation were submitted to the Civil Aviation Regulations Committee (CARCom) for processing. A desktop review indicates South Africa was ranked 36thin the world, before considering the current Corrective Action and the AIID ICAO audit. SACAA has filed 50% of the Corrective Action Plan with ICAO, and would soon be re-evaluated. The Director was confident that this would further improve SACAA’s rankings.

Exemption from European cargo security regulations (ACC3) meant that South African standards are reliable and robust, similar to those of Europe. In June 2014, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) assessed Delta Airlines and South African Airways at OR Tambo and Lanseria. It was a success with no findings recorded. SACAA was reappointed as co-chair of the ICAO working group on air cargo security.

7.3        Aircraft Register

The current growth trends in the Aircraft Register indicate some improvement, with nine months of the year registering a 2% growth compared to 1.7% for the entire previous year.  Since March 2014, licenced personnel grew by 6% over nine months, ending September 2014.  A demographic representation of this growth indicates a greater contribution of Africans, with a 9% annual average. 

7.4        Human Resources

The Organisational Structure Review (OSR) project is nearing completion, with the new organisational structure expected to be completed by mid-February. A service provider was appointed for the implementation of a business continuity plan and the project is under way.

7.5        Skills Development and Industry Transformation

By December 2014, 309 schools within eightprovinces were exposed to aviation awareness opportunities (programmes), paving the way for future participation. Nineteen HDI students were awarded bursaries in cadetship and various engineering fields. The development of the industry-wide transformation strategy has commenced and is targeted to be forwarded to the Department of Transport by March 2015.

7.6        OrganisationalHighlights

SACAA received a clean audit award by the Auditor-General for the second successive year  and SACAA is regarded as the best performing Department of Transport’s entity. SACAA successfully hosted the ICAO/African Aerospace Medicine Conference, which was a first of its kind in Africa. 


8.         Challenges

8.1        Labour Recognition

The finalisation of the Labour Recognition Agreement (LRA) remains a challenge.   It was cancelled, as both parties agreed that it had to be revamped, as it had become irrelevant due to a changing organisational environment.  Labour approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) concerning the validity of the Labour Recognition Agreement and the matter was ruled in favour of the SACAA.  SACAA Management was determined to solve the current impasse.

8.2        Amendment of the Civil Aviation Act

The finalisation of the amendment of the Act was imperative for the following reasons: It would address governance issues where the Civil Aviation Act was not aligned to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The dual reporting of the Accident and Incident Investigation Division (AIID) caused an administrative challenge and the amendment of the Civil Aviation Act would assist in addressing the above.

8.3        Revenue

Stagnation of passenger numbers had an impact on revenue.


9.         Committee Observations

The Committee made the following observations during discussions:

9.1        The establishment of the independence of the Accident and Incident investigation Division (AIID) should be prioritised. The Committee questioned the effectiveness of the unit in the office of the Director-General. The absence of legislation pertaining to the independent investigation unit exposes the entity to vulnerability. The Committee further noted that the AIID would require adequate funding for its operational requirements.

9.2        The Committee noted the delays in amending the Civil Aviation Bill.The alignment of the Civil Aviation Act to the Public Finance and Management Act (PFMA) was pending.  The amendment of the Act was imperative, as it would address governance issues where the Civil Aviation Act was not aligned to the Public Finance Management Act.During the discussions, the Committee considered processing the Bill as a Committee Bill should the delays in processing of the Bill continue. The Department is urged to process the Bill to enable SACAA to fully execute its mandate.

9.3        The Chairperson of the SACAA Board raised the legislative anomaly in terms of corporate governance at SACAA where the Director directly reports to the Minister, as opposed the Board.

9.4        The Committee noted that the right workforce, in terms of competencies was critical for the SACAA. The Committee further noted that at the time of its visit, the SACAA had not filled key vacancies due to its restructuring process. The Committee recommends that SACAA finalise its restructuring as it would ensure stability. The Committee commends SACAA on its skills development programmes through its cadet and learnership programme.

9.5        There was a need for regulations to address Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

9.6The Committee commends SACAA and ATNS’s plans of buying new offices instead of renting.


10.        Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the Minister ensure the following:

10.1      That the Department finalise the processing of the amendments to the Civil Aviation Act.In addition, the Department should update the Committee on a quarterly basis on the processing of amendments to the Civil Aviation Act.Failing which the Committee would enact a Private Member’s Bill in its capacity as legislators.

10.2      That the Department finalise the regulations for the management of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

10.3      That the Department partner with SACAA on the development of a funding model to ensure SACAA’s future financial sustainability.


Report to be considered.




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