Mbalula lays out plan to address Prasa woes

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has laid out his plans to deal with the issue of security on the country's passenger trains.

Chief among his plans is to see the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) employ new security companies with performance-based contracts. 

Mbalula clarified as much in a reply to a parliamentary question from IFP MP Khethamabala Sithole. 

Sithole asked him whether he had any plan of action in place to ensure that "security is strengthened at our train stations and on the trains to address disruptions, vandalism and damage to state property that has become a norm and to ensure that commuters not only use an efficient service, but also a safe one".

Mbalula stated, in response, that Prasa had an approved "security operational plan". 

He added that from September 1, 2019, Prasa would be employing new security companies, with performance-based contractual arrangements. The new agreements would include a heavy emphasis on reducing the vandalism and theft that is "bedevilling our infrastructure".

Mbalula continued: "A strong technology roll-out is underway, in the form of CCTV, and other surveillance equipment. These are aimed to act as force multipliers to assist in areas where physical security cannot reach."

Dr Blade Nzimande, Mbalula's predecessor, confirmed the rollout of this technology in March, stating that in Cape Town, where a spate of train attacks and arson had bedevilled the city's commuters, "further reinforcement in the form of drones and forensic support have been added as part of a pilot project".

"This has proven successful and plans are afoot to roll out this project to Gauteng in the next financial year," Nzimande said at the time.

In March, Richard Walker, Prasa's regional manager in the Western Cape, said "surveillance and forensic capability made a massive difference, as the results prove" after it announced 347 arrests in 365 days in the Cape. 

Mbalula said the newly approved Prasa group security strategy supported a different security outlook that "fosters professionalism and a culture of sensitivity toward commuters and passengers alike", adding this was supported by a new structure dedicated to giving credence to the "prioritization of security at stations".

Fin24 reported that during his department's budget vote this week, Mbalula lamented the governance challenges faced by the rail agency. 

He said Prasa had been "haemorrhaging engineers" - rendering it unable to improve its performance.

Mbalula said a "ministerial war room", aimed at stabilising the rail agency through an oversight role, had been established and was expected to achieve tangible results within 100 days.