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On the morning of Thursday 28 November 2019, thousands of Cape Town commuters woke up to the news that all trains in the region had been suspended following an arson attack. The fire, which took place in the early hours of this morning, destroyed 18 carriages – the equivalent of two full train sets. The total estimated cost of this latest attack was R61 million.
It is clear that there is a systematic attack on our commuter rail system. This comes after the Central Line, which serves Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, has been closed for a month.

Minister Mbalula hosted a press conference at Cape Town station this afternoon, with acting PRASA CEO Dr Nkosinathi Sishi and PRASA Western Cape Regional Manager Richard Walker. Some #UniteBehind activists attended the press briefing while others were were not allowed in.

 

Some of the questions we wanted to ask were:

 

Why is there still no permanent board and why has the Minister’s office not shared the reappointment letters extending the term of the interim board after it expired on 31 October 2019 (if they exist at all)?

Why did PRASA’s board, Acting GCEO Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, and Security Manager Dr Mandisa Mokwena sack private security companies without any alternative?
Has the Minister asked for the prosecution of politically connected security bosses and friends of Jacob Zuma, Lucky Montana, Arthur Fraser, Manala Manzini, Roy Moodley, Sfiso Buthelezi, Mario Ferreira, and others who were meant to fix our trains?

 

The Minister makes much of his War Room. Why has he not communicated to people why the Central Line is not open after almost a month, and what alternative transport has he made available to the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on trains and MyCiti buses that no longer run?

 

We also wanted to know why has a national disaster not been declared after all these sustained attacks on our commuter rail system. Commuters have been suffering without any answers for far too long.

The state of commuter rail should be considered a matter of national urgency. Commuting to and from work has become a matter of life and death. Women and girls are sexually harassed on trains with no means of reporting the crimes and people get mugged every day. This is why #UniteBehind has been calling for a commuter-centred safety plan which focuses on women, children, elderly and people with disabilities.
The Minister spoke strongly about ending the reign of the criminal networks that cripple our train service, and said he would be engaging Police Minister Bheki Cele.
The Minister of Transport has again committed to meeting with #UniteBehind and commuters in Cape Town next week. We look forward to a fruitful engagement with the Minister. We hope the Minister can answer these and other questions at the promised meeting.