Prasa head engineer suspended

Genevieve Quintal, News24

Johannesburg - Less than 48 hours after Prasa fired CEO Lucky Montana, its head engineer, Daniel Mthimkhulu, has been suspended following an investigation into his qualifications.

"I can confirm that he has been suspended after an investigation surrounding his actual qualifications," Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) spokesperson Sipho Sithole told News24.

"Now there is a formal disciplinary inquiry... because he has failed to produce the academic qualifications that he claimed he had."

Mthimkhulu has been suspended with immediate effect.

Last week, Netwerk24 reported that Mthimkhulu was not officially registered with the profession’s statutory body.

In 2006, the Engineering Council of South Africa (Ecsa) rejected Dr Daniel Mtimkhulu’s application to register with it, according to the report.

On Thursday, Prasa announced that it had resolved on Wednesday that Montana would not have to work the remainder of his notice period, which started on June 1, until December.

Until the board had found a suitable replacement, Prasa COO and Autopax acting CEO Nathi Khena would step into the role.

Prasa has faced questions over the purchase of new diesel locomotives from Spain, and over a R51bn tender for the purchase of 600 trains for its fleet renewal programme.

The agency had reportedly ignored warnings from engineers that the 13 Afro 4000 locomotives, imported from Spain for R600m, were too high for local railways and could damage overhead cables.

On July 6, Montana and Mthimkhulu denied this.

“We meet the safety standards," Montana said at the time.

"We have bought one of the best locomotives in the world and we are not even apologetic about that."

Prasa bought 20 diesel Afro 4 000 locomotives, plus another 50 hybrid ones, for a total of R3.5bn.

Montana was supposed to address media on Friday on the reasons for his dismissal, but then said was asked by government to hold off on this while it deliberated over the weekend.

Prasa was also meant to hold a press briefing on Frida,y but cancelled it at the last minute.

Sithole had said that after consultation with Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and the board, it was decided that the statement issued on Thursday was sufficient.