The United Commuters Voice says Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula should be held accountable for the collapse of the country’s railway system. This is as train services across the country remain grounded, with only a few corridors operating on limited service, due to cable theft and vandalism.

PRASA missed its November deadline to reopen the refurbished Mabopane Corridor in Pretoria, while the Cape Town Central line is also operating on a limited service.

Martha Zitha is one of many South Africans badly affected by the grounding of metro rail trains. While some of her colleagues have lost their jobs because they couldn’t afford taxi fare, she’s had to put in place other plans to stay employed.

Zitha says “I was forced to find a room near my workplace because of these trains. I don’t earn that much; with my salary, I can’t afford to commute daily using a taxi.”

Thabo Manganye, from Soshanguve in northern Pretoria, was also forced to use a more expensive mode of transport. Manganye says “Per day I pay a lot to travel. It’s cheaper travelling by train. You spend R8.50 to town and R8.50 to come back.”

Cable theft, vandalism and leadership instability have been cited as some of the reasons for the collapse of the country’s railway infrastructure.

As part of its turnaround strategy, PRASA identified 22 corridors as a top priority for service recovery, including the Mabopane and Cape Town lines, which are among the country’s busiest.

Commuter organisation, the United Commuters Voice says the collapse of Metrorail has played a role in the country’s poor economy and the many job losses.

The organisation’s Jaoa Jardim says, “The poorest of the poor can’t afford to ride a train anymore. For example, if you’re talking about a domestic worker earning R2000, they’re gonna pay R1900 for transport. Is it worth it? No, it’s not worth it all. This is disgusting. We’re sitting where people tell you we cannot afford to have a job; can you believe this.”

Jardim says they want Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to be held accountable. “The infrastructure is broken, in Cape Town, you can’t even go anywhere, they keep on saying they are going to fix trains. This morning I saw one train but again it’s just unfortunate there are 300 000 passengers a day and one train cannot handle that much. Pretoria the same thing, Vereeniging, Virginia, wherever you go, Eastern Cape, 10km of the line has been cut up and this is all under his tenure.”

PRASA says services are resuming in phases. The Mamelodi-Pienaarspoort Train Service will resume on Wednesday, with three trains in the mornings and afternoons while the Mabopane corridor is set to resume next week.