Newly-appointed Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula says he plans on bringing stability to the Passenger Rail Service (Prasa). He says this will effect change in the experience of thousands of commuters who battle an unreliable and unsafe service daily.

Mbalula was speaking at Langa Station in Cape Town after taking a train ride from Khayelitsha in the Cape Flats.

Chris Hani Station in Khayelitsha is located on the central line and is notorious for violent crime, vandalism, robberies and cable theft. Commuters travelling from the station are rarely on time due to constant delays and often they fear for their safety.

Neliswa Situko boards at Chris Hani Station and disembarks in Mandalay. She says she and fellow commuters are often targeted by criminals. “We are not safe inside. There’s robbers … they come inside and rob us of our bags, our phones, inside the train.”

Various incidents of arson have crippled the rail system in Cape Town over the past few years. Mbalula says fixing the rail service is his priority. The establishment of a war room, community involvement and ensuring stability at executive level are part of his plan to do this.

“The change we are bringing is that we are going to bring stability at the leadership level of the boards, and in particular at Prasa. We are going to bring sustainability; we are going to bring knowledge and experience and no-nonsense leadership that has got skills and capacity. That you are guaranteed is going to happen in less than three months. You are going to get that from me and my team and the deputy minister.”

Commuters and activists want the situation declared a disaster.

Satawu Provincial Secretary, Tebela Dakusa says that black and coloured middle class are paying the cost of an ineffective management.

“What you have here Minister is central line and it is closed down because trains are burning, because people are being killed. Whereas when you go to the upper side, where the rich people stay, you never get trains that are cancelled. Black and coloured working class in this province are paying the cost of management that are unable to do what they are expected to do.”

Mbalula says he has engaged with the police minister in attempts to beef up railway policing. He’s signed a number of memorandums calling for urgent action to address the problems plaguing the rail service.

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