THE chairman of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Mr Leonard Ramatlakane, has been stood down by South Africa’s minister of transport, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, after an investigation found he misused property owned by Prasa in Cape Town.

Ramatlakane, a former ANC MP, was appointed Prasa chairperson in October 2020.

In March, the Sunday Times of South Africa reported that Ramatlakane had moved his family into a Prasa-owned property while his own home was being renovated. This property was meant to be used by Prasa officials on work trips to avoid the need to use hotel accommodation. This caused concern among Prasa officials, who believed this was an abuse of public funds, and on March 6 the Prasa board decided to refer the allegations to an internal inquiry.

In May, the Daily Maverick reported that Ramatlakane missed a meeting of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts, with Chikunga explaining that this was due to a deadline for Ramatlakane to provide his reasons for occupying the Prasa property in Newlands.

In a statement announcing that Ramatlakane has been relieved of his duties as both a board member and chairperson of Prasa, Chikunga expressed her appreciation for his “leadership and sterling work” that led to the restoration of service on 13 commuter lines by Prasa, as part of its Rail Recovery Programme launched in response to the damage caused by thieves and vandals during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“This exceeded the target of 10 lines that were initially earmarked by Prasa for recovery,” she said. “It is under his watch that Prasa was able to restore a sizeable number of rail services in various metros in the country, which has ensured that Prasa Rail reclaims its status as a mass mover of commuters.”