The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) says it will investigate the allegations over the qualifications of its top engineer, Dr Daniel Mtimkulu, according to TimesLive.
“He (Mtimkulu) is a dynamic individual and a transformation leader who continue to play a major role in the revolution unfolding in the rail industry in the country,” said Prasa spokesperson, Moffet Mofokeng.
“(We) will, however, initiate a process to establish the veracity of these allegations.”
Mtimkulu headed the engineering team that designed new Afro 4000 locomotives delivered to South Africa in January, at a cost of R600 million.
The thirteen 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.
It is alleged that Dr Daniel Mtimkulu, manager of engineering services at Prasa, had his application to the Engineering Council of SA (ECSA) rejected in 2006 as he only has a BTech qualification and a national diploma.
According to Netwerk24, Mtimkulu previously claimed he had an engineering sciences degree, obtained from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), before obtaining a doctorate in Germany.
However, the publication’s follow-up investigations found that Mtimkulu did not obtain his degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), as he previously claimed, and that he wasn’t a registered engineer.
Wits said it did not have any records of Mtimkulu attending the university, while ECSA told Beeld that Dr Mtimkulu was not registered with the engineering body.
Netwerk24 reported that engineers are required to be registered with ECSA in order to do work for the state and sign off on contracts; however this was later refuted by Mofokeng in an interview with Radio 702.
Mofokeng outright rejected the claim, saying that Mtimkulu is not required to be registered as an engineer with ECSA to fill his position.
‘He needs to be a professional’
South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) CEO Manglin Pillay told 702 that individuals need to be registered for the integrity of the engineering profession.
Pillay said that taking responsibility for such a large contract, the engineering act requires him to be a professional.
Mofokeng – confirming that Mtimkulu is not registered with the engineering council in SA – stressed that it is mandatory for him to hold a certificate, and added that he was part of a team: “It was not a one man show,” he said.
The spokesperson would not be drawn into answering whether or not Mtimkulu obtained his degree from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), however, instead simply stating 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.”
When the Talk Radio asked why Mtimkulu had not come on the show himself to set the record straight, Mofokeng said: “He is busy…doing very good work”.
The start of the fiasco
Mtimkulu and the Prasa came under the spotlight 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.
Prasa Group CEO, Lucky Montana, briefed reporters in Pretoria on Monday rejecting the 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”.