UniteBehind

#FixOurTrains Campaign

Our Broken Train Service

The state-owned Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) is responsible for operating all passenger rail in the country. PRASA has been gutted through corruption and maladministration. Nationally, only 31 lines out of 40 are operational. Around 90% of previous rail commuters are unable to use trains – forced into other modes of transport.

In Cape Town, the most segregated city in the country, the vital Central Line has been out of service since 2017 due to PRASA’s mismanagement. Currently, only half of it is operational, with limited service. Across the country, the majority of trains only run (at most) once per hour, where they used to run once every 15 minutes at peak times. 

Impact on Commuters

The state is constitutionally obligated to provide adequate passenger rail. Our #FixOurTrains campaign is necessary for returning PRASA’s service delivery to alleviate the worst effects of South Africa’s spatially unequal and segregated society. No other organization is as focused on this issue as #UniteBehind.

Increased Expenses

Reliance on very expensive alternatives like taxis or buses places a financial burden on commuters. Many spend more than 30% of their income on transport costs. Poor and working-class people are forced to choose between feeding their families and paying for transport.

Unsafe Conditions

Commuters suffer in crowded carriages and stations, risking personal safety due to inadequate infrastructure and crime, especially impacting women and children.

Rights & Livelihoods

Many are discouraged or are unable to look for work due to high transport costs. Without access to passenger rail, poor people are trapped in crime-ridden, under-serviced, and desolate townships on the outskirts of cities. The relics of apartheid are sustained: we are unable to access to health and education services, job opportunities, and recreation.

Delays

Commuters are forced to endure extensive delays, leading to increased stress and exhaustion. We are deprived of time with our families. When we are late for work, our livelihoods are in jeopardy. We risk losing our jobs or forfeiting leave due to the often unexplained delays.

#FixOurTrains Campaign

In order to address the dire need to #FixOurTrains, #UniteBehind launched a campaign by the same name in 2017.

Our work strategy involves:

1)         Mobilising support for our campaign goals and around our legal cases

2)         Political advocacy

3)         Education workshops

4)         Protests and political actions, such as rallies, sit-ins, and marches

5)         Research, bringing together grassroots and academic knowledge

6)         Litigation and other legal mechanisms

 

Goals & Objectives

 

1)         Ensuring that South Africa’s commuter rail is revitalised to an affordable, safe, efficient, and sustainable service. 

2)         Ensuring that corruption and state capture at PRASA is replaced with accountability, transparency, and responsive governance.

3)         Ensuring the devolution of commuter rail to the lowest appropriate level of governance. 

4)         Ensuring that the voice of poor & working class commuters are at the forefront of public transport politics in South Africa.

 

Current Legal Matters

See this article on GroundUp for an overview of our #FixOurTrains legal matters as of March 2024.

Service Level Plan

Judge Makhubele Tribunal

Parliamentary Ethics Complaints

State Capture Commission

Buthelezi SLAPP Suit

Previous Legal Successes

Ethics Commmittee - Peters & Maswanganyi​

After we submitted complaints to Parliament’s Ethics Committee against six MPs implicated in corruption and maladministration at PRASA (see above), the Committee found in our favour on two of the complaints. It recommended the suspension of Dipuo Peters and Joe Maswanganyi. Parliament approved both decisions. Peters attempted to fight her suspension but we successfully defended this challenge in court, in January 2024. President Ramaphosa then also suspended Peters from her position as Deputy Minister of Small Business Enterprises. See this blog article for more information on the Peters suspension. See this blog article for more information on the Maswanganyi suspension. ​

Security Contracts Unlawfully Cancelled

In November 2019, PRASA unlawfully cancelled all of its security contracts in Cape Town. This cancellation was done without contingency. The security companies challenged this unlawful action, with #UniteBehind joining the case as ‘friend of the court’ (amicus curae). We argued that PRASA must not be allowed to cancel the contracts without an adequate contingency plan. 

The Court agreed with our argument and granted an interdict, requiring the security contracts to be upheld until PRASA produced an adequate contingency plan. No such plan was forthcoming and the security contractors continued their work. However, PRASA failed to pay the security companies, which meant that their work was impeded. Their services reduced and this, coupled with the Covid-19 lockdown, resulted in the wholesale destruction of the railways in Cape Town. It allowed indigent people to move onto the Central Line and for station infrastructure, overhead cabling and the actual railway to be stolen and vandalised. PRASA only paid the companies after further successful court applications.

In late 2023, PRASA tried to cancel the security contracts again, stating that it had complied with the 2019 court order. However, in November 2023, the WC High Court ruled that it had not yet complied with the previous order and required PRASA to do so, giving it a month’s deadline. To our knowledge, PRASA is yet to comply with the 2023 order. 

Challenging PRASA Poor Governance - Unlawful Administrator​

In December 2019, #UniteBehind took a bold stance against what we identified as a significant oversight and deviation from due process by the Minister of Transport. Then-Minister Fikile Mbalula dismissed the PRASA Board and then appointed his associate Bongisizwe Mpondo as an administrator in its stead. This move by the Minister raised serious concerns about adherence to statutory mandates and the principles of transparency and accountability that govern public entities. The action was not just as an isolated misstep, but a symptom of a broader, more concerning trend towards governance by fiat, bypassing the checks and balances that underpin democratic accountability and the rule of law. By challenging this appointment, #UniteBehind advocated for the integrity of public institutions and defended the public’s right to a well-governed, effective public transport service. Through legal challenges and public advocacy, #UniteBehind sought to rectify this transgression, underscoring our unwavering commitment to justice, transparency, and the enforcement of laws designed to protect the public interest and preserve the sanctity of South Africa’s public institutions.​

Siyangena Technologies - R5.5 Billion​

The infamous Siyangena Technologies case was a review by PRASA of its own contracts with Siyangena Technologies valued at approximately R5.5 billion. The controversy centres on allegations of corruption, impropriety, and maladministration linked to contracts awarded to Siyangena for supplying and maintaining integrated security access management systems at various train stations ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and afterwards. In October 2020, #UniteBehind joined the case and successfully enabled the court to find against Siyangena, ordering it to pay back funds it received less the value of the work it produced. Siyangena then appealed this ruling and, in August 2022, #UniteBehind joined the case as ‘friend of the court’ (amicus curiae). The Court dismissed Siyangena’s appeal in November 2022 and the Constitutional refused leave to appeal in August 2023. PRASA is yet to reclaim the money, however. The Minister of Transport and Parliament must act immediately to ensure that the billions in public funds stolen is returned to us.​

How To Get Involved ?

Join the movement by:

– Sharing your experiences using #FixOurTrains, tag #UniteBehind

– Volunteering for protests, community organisation, or social media support

– Contributing through donations to facilitate impactful change

RESOURCES

Access our pamphlet and PRASALeaksReport for further insights and information on our campaign.

#UniteBehind Pamphlet

PRASA Leaks Report