Fact check: What has South Africa's government done to ensure safety on trains?

Fact check: What has South Africa's government done to ensure safety on trains?

With the tragic train accident last week, and Minister Blade Nzimande rebuking the inaction of PRASA recently, there is a spotlight on the safety of the rail system. Briefly.co.za explores key issues and the progress of promises and plans.

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A tragic train accident saw the death of 3 people and more than 600 injuries last week. Transport Blade Nzimande recently condemned the inaction of PRASA, saying they had underspent by R20 billion.

Rail services in the country has gone off the tracks. Countless incidents of derailments, vandalism, assaults and even arson have seen a drop in Metrorail's consumer satisfaction from 70% to 52%.

Despite endless promises from officials to better service, commuters have had no choice but to endure.

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Briefly.co.za explores the key issues and the promises made by PRASA to address them:

1. Issue: Vandalism and safety

Solution: Introduction of a rail unit

In the period of two years, between 2015 and 2017, over 700 incidents of cable theft were reported as well as over 1300 incidents of contact crimes on rail property were reported in the Western Cape alone.

PRASA also reported 45% of rolling stock had been vandalized nationally from the end of 2016 to September 2018.

So what was done about it? In 2018 PRASA, the City of Cape Town and the provincial department of Transport and Public Works created a joint rail unit to ensure the safety of not only commuters but infrastructure.

The unit comprises of 100 trained rail officers on Cape Town's trains for the period of one year. The relatively new unit has enjoyed some success with nearly a ton of rail signal cables confiscated and 36 arrests.

However, this unit is only a temporary one, with no indication on whether it would be made permanent or not.

2. Issue: Erratic leadership at PRASA

Solution: A stable and functional board

In October 2018 Khanyisile Kweyama, interim PRASA board chair, revealed that:

“We have inherited an organisation that is almost broken and has reached crisis point,”

In April Blade Nzimande had said that the issues surrounding management at PRASA needed to be addressed permanently. Since August 2014 there have been 8 board changes, with the call for stability in leadership increasing.

Kweyama, as well as the remainder of the interim board, had been appointed by the Transport Minister in April.

The rail agency's secretary Lundikhaya Zide had maintained that the government had not taken the entity seriously because of the lack of permanent leadership.

The interim board will stay on at PRASA for a year, ending in June 2019.

3. Issue: Lack of financial statements

Solution: Statements would be submitted by the end of June 2018

The interim board had promised that the rail agency's 2016/2017 financial statements would be handed in to Parliament by June 2018. The documents had been delayed until the end of September, but did little to restore the entity's image.

The financial statements for the 2016/2017 had revealed a loss of R928 million. Irregular expenditure had stood at almost R20 billion.

However, the 2017/2018 financial statements had shown an improvement, with irregular expenditure at R4 billion and losses at R925 million.

4. Issue: Safety plan

Solution: PRASA would release a safety plan

One of the primary objectives of the interim board had been to focus on the creation of a safety plan, this followed PRASA and the Railway Safety Regulator being called to Parliament to explain a train collision.

Kweyama had promised that the agency would present a 12-point plan to the Department of Transport. No deadline had been given for the submission of this plan.

To date, no safety plan had been presented by the rail agency.

READ ALSO: Transport Minister rebukes PRASA for risking lives with R20bn underspending

5. Issue: Maladministration accusations

Solution: State Capture Inquiry

The transport portfolio committee is one of the four parliamentary committees addressing State Capture and maladministration at the government-owned entities in SA.

The committee is posed to explore allegations of maladministration proposed by the former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's 2015 report 'Derailed'.

The rail agency is plagued by allegations of maladministration, irregularities concerning tenders and financial mismanagement.

As it currently stands, no date has been set yet for the investigation.

In conclusion, there appears to be very little hope for PRASA. Commuters on the ground will bare the brunt of the pain while the rail agency attempts to create a state of functionality within itself.

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Source: Briefly.co.za

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