702 accepts PRASA “Administrator’s” demand to drop #UniteBehind from the Eusebius McKaiser Talk Show
10 March 2020
The refusal by the purported PRASA Administrator to discuss the disaster at the rail agency together with Zackie Achmat from
#UniteBehind on the Eusebius McKaiser Talk Show is alarming for the following reasons:
- Mr Bongisizwe Mpondo and PRASA show a deep contempt for accountability and openness regarding a state-owned entity that should serve working people who use trains across all the major cities in our country. This disregard for accountability is not remedied by the roadshows masquerading as public engagement by the Minister, the purported PRASA Administrator and others. These controlled information sessions do not fulfill the Constitutional Court’s jurisprudence related to requirements for participatory democracy and meaningful engagement. In this context, the media’s interrogation of power at PRASA and in society generally fulfills an indispensable function to supplement participatory democracy.
- The disaster at PRASA affects governance, executive management, policy, programme, operations and state capture and Mr Mpondo who has been at the agency just over three months should welcome discussion and criticism from every person who has been in the trenches inside and outside the rail agency including #UniteBehind.
- Over the last two and a half years #UniteBehind has engaged commuters and other rail experts, studied and used tens of thousands of pages of documents to understand the disaster at the the rail agency, we have engaged with PRASA officials, employees and management, the dismissed Boards of Control, the Ministers, Parliament, the Public Protector, the National Prosecution Authority and the Office of the Chief Justice. #UniteBehind’s engagement with power relating to trains has been considered at times co-operative and at other times conflictual. We have written letters, requested meetings, participated in meetings and workshops, conducted public education, protested and litigated – all in the specific interests of commuters and the broader public interest. Our work demonstrates a serious approach to act in the best interests of PRASA as an entity owned by our people as a whole.
- A simple example of our engagement will suffice: since the inception of #UniteBehind’s work on PRASA, we have requested a commuter centred safety plan that focuses on vulnerable people with a special reference to women who face violence including sexual assault on our trains. We delayed litigation to ensure that the rail agency fulfill this constitutional mandate until the Board and lately Mr. Mpondo unilaterally cancelled security contracts. Last Friday, the High Court in Cape Town issued an order against PRASA demanding that Mr Mpondo explain why he should not be held in contempt of Court for failing to produce a security plan last December. #UniteBehind and the security companies had given Mr. Mpondo two additional months to comply with the Court order of last November.
- Mr Mpondo’s demand that #UniteBehind not be allowed to participate on the same programme is a direct form of censorship. His undemocratic demand should come as no surprise. We know that the “Administrator” is also conducting an internal witch-hunt against PRASA employees who have been integral to the struggle against state capture and insisted that all officials act within the realm of legality. The Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula and the Director-General of the Department of Transport Mr Alex Moemi have also been involved in this attack on competent, professional and ethical employees, a quality deeply lacking in PRASA and government in general.
- Finally, it is deeply regrettable that one of the most established talk shows have given in to this demand. If such demands for censorship were entertained in every single instance, the media would step back from the critical role that it has played in exposing all of forms of malfeasance in society.