‘Highly motivated’ Mbalula says all Cape Town railway lines will be fully operational by year-end

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula was decidedly upbeat during two visits to Prasa sites in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Outgoing Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said: “I’m leaving this place [the transport ministry] highly motivated,” during an impromptu media briefing at the Paarden Eiland Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) depot on Tuesday.

Last December, Mbalula was elected as ANC secretary-general, a full-time position which will see him resign as minister, as explained by Daily Maverick associate editor Marianne Merten.

Mbalula was in Cape Town for an oversight visit to assess the progress of ongoing Prasa projects and security measures.

Mbalula said: “By the end of this year, I am definitely sure with the programme we have put in place… all the lines will be fully operational.” He said this would happen countrywide with the newly acquired trains, dubbed the People’s Train.


Mbalula has made several promises on the train network, including reopening Cape Town’s Central Line to Khayelitsha, which has still not happened. He did touch on this, saying: “We’ve got a problem with resettling people.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Dear Minister Mbalula, trust is earned – and you have failed that test too many times

“When you say it is not felt on the ground, go to Naledi, in Soweto, and see for yourself,” said Mbalula in reply to a journalist’s question about getting commuters back on trains after long periods without rail services.

Read more in Daily Maverick: After the collapse – Prasa finally reopens rail line serving Soweto

During his visit, Mbalula went to two Prasa sites. First was a new mixed-use development at the Cape Town train station. Prasa said the development would contain retail space, a hotel and residences with 3,400 beds for students who receive funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. This is a private-public partnership between Prasa’s property division and the private sector. Construction began in August 2021 and is expected to be completed by August 2023.

Following the visit, Mbalula and a contingent of officials, including Prasa board chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane and acting CEO Hishaam Emeran, visited the Paarden Eiland depot, where agency rolling stock is kept. The area was filled with the new blue trains.

Anti-vandalism measures

Prasa officials told Mbalula of new concrete walling that would act as a hindrance to vandalism and theft, problems that have long plagued Prasa. New measures include seismic detection of vandalism and CCTV cameras.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Crumbling Philippi station on Cape Town’s Central Line highlights Prasa’s enormous challenges

During the briefing, Emeran said: “We have been rolling out an integrated security strategy and we’re bearing the fruit from that process. It’s about the deployment of physical boots on the ground — we’ve increased the numbers substantially and we’re busy now with rolling out the technology.

“You see it now with the smart walls — it’s not just a concrete wall, it comes with CCTV cameras… seismic detectors… a combination of boots on the ground plus technology. Where we’ve rolled out we’ve seen a huge reduction in terms of security, crime, vandalism incidents… the numbers have come down to virtually next to nothing.” DM

Author: editor

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