Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) says that its chief engineer, Dr Daniel Mtimkulu, is not required to be registered as an engineer.
Prasa spokesperson, Moffet Mofokeng, on Wednesday (8 July) defended the under-fire Mtimkulu after a Netwerk24.com report (link in Afrikaans) questioned his qualifications.
The Afrikaans news network reported on Wednesday that Dr Mtimkulu, manager of engineering services at Prasa, and head of the engineering team that designed new Afro 4000 locomotives delivered to South Africa in January, at a cost of R600 million, had his application for registration for The Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) rejected in 2006.
Netwerk24 said that engineers are required to be registered with ECSA in order to do work for the state.
However, in an interview on Talk radio 702, Mofokeng insisted that it is not mandatory for Dr Mtimkulu to be registered with the council.
More concerning however, Mofokeng did not respond to claims that Mtimkulu did not obtain his degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), as was claimed.
Instead he merely said that Prasa had Mtimkulu’s CV. When asked where he received his degree, Mofokeng said: “That is not the important thing for us. The fact of the matter is that Mtimkulu is a qualified engineer.”
According to Netwerk24, Mtimkulu claimed he had an engineering sciences degree from Wits, before obtaining a doctorate in Germany.
It said that Wits registration office had no record of Dr Mtimkulu as a student at the university, while ECSA told Beeld that Dr Mtimkulu was not registered with the engineering body.
The report said that Prasa did not respond to repeated inquiries about Mtimkulu’s ECSA registration.
The thirteen Afro 4000 diesel locomotives that have so far been delivered to Prasa are worth R600 million and form part of a larger R3.5 billion order for 70 new locomotives.
South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) CEO Manglin Pillay told Talk Radio 702 that individuals need to be registered for the integrity of the engineering profession. “It is imperative that our colleague be registered,” he said.
Mofokeng however, said that Mtimkulu is not registered with the council in SA, stressing again that it is mandatory for him to hold a certificate.
Pillay said that taking responsibility for such a large contract, the engineering act requires him to be a professional.
Mofokeng said that Mtimkulu was part of a team…”it was not a one man show”.
When the Talk Radio requested why Mtimkulu not come on the show and set the record straight, Mofokeng said: “He is busy…doing very good work”.
Prasa Group CEO, Lucky Montana, briefed reporters in Pretoria on Monday following reports that South African railway officials imported brand new locomotives from Europe worth hundreds of millions on rands, despite explicit warnings that the trains were not suited for local rail lines.
Montana rejected claims that the locomotives were too tall for local tracks, maintaining that the new trains surpassed standards.
“During our testing, the train passed through tunnels. There is no bridge that was hit. From our side, there is no story. The hype is focused on other things,” he said.
Montana accused the reporter who broke the story of trying to create an impression that incompetent individuals headed Prasa.
Montana suggested that the engineering team was being undermined because the lead engineer is black. He said that the motive for the article ‘was probably a race issue’.
“Maybe because he is black that his authority is not taken seriously,” said Montana. “I am convinced that this story has got nothing to do with height restrictions – what is the story?…If it goes through a bridge, and comes out the other end – what is the story?”
Montana said that Dr Mtimkulu was among the very best engineers. “We are lucky to keep him,” he said, noting that the engineer had been head hunted to work all around the world.