PRASA in the Western Cape has announced that it has put its regional head on special leave . This coincides with the reopening of Cape Town’s busiest train route that was suspended for 6 weeks.
Civil organisations, #UniteBehind and UNTU have welcomed what they are calling the ‘suspension’ of the Western Cape regional head of PRASA.
PRASA confirmed that Richard Walker was granted special leave from 20-23 February 2018 to attend to a disciplinary matter.
The discipline process follows what the civil organisation referred to as ‘rot’ in the running of Metrorail trains in the Western Cape.
Amidst the ‘rot’ is security of train commuters and Metrorail employees. Last month, a security guard was shot dead at Chris Hani train station when he escorted a female Metro guard of PRASA .
In a press statement, UNTU welcomes the decision of Mthuthuzeli Swartz, the Acting Chief Executive Officer of PRASA to place Walker on special leave.
UNTU sees Walker’s mismanagement of the rail services as the reason why the Central Line was suspended for more than five weeks and only resumed its operations on Wednesday this week.
“We have repeatedly said in the past that Walker does not have the ability to implement preventative measures to prevent chaos from erupting at stations under his command when trains are delayed. He also had a total disregard for his responsibility in terms of labour legislation by providing his employees with a safe working environment,” says Steve Harris, General Secretary of UNTU.
“Mr Walker has failed to report the rot that has led to the state capture of PRASA. Under his watch, Metrorail in the region has broken down. The central line used by 120,000 working class people has only been reopened after being down for almost two months,” says Bruce Baigrie, organising secretary of #UniteBehind in an email response.
#UniteBehind further questions why Mthuthuzeli Swartz remains in his position as acting CEO of PRASA while he is also under investigation by the Hawks.
COSATU Western Cape region is worried about the poor services of Metrorail.
“Clearly there is a problem with the nature and safety services and the impact it has on workers and Metrorail commuters. COSATU calls the Minister of Transport to urgently deal with the crisis unfolding at Metrorail,” says Tony Ehrenreich.
When contacted over the phone, Richard Walker confirmed he has been placed on special leave pending what he called ‘certain allegations’.
“I am not suspended, I am put on special leave for certain allegations. The allegations are not true. However, I will co-operate with the process within the organisation,” he said.
He also expressed concern that some trade unions were the first to announce that he was suspended though he is on ‘special leave’.
In an email response, Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says senior manager, Lawrence Weideman has been appointed acting regional manager.