South Africa: Mbalula a No-Show At Meeting With #UniteBehind

5 December 2019

"Commuting to and from work has become a matter of life and death" says commuter activist group

"The dire state of commuter rail requires urgent intervention. Commuting to and from work has become a matter of life and death," said commuter activist group #UniteBehind in a statement on Wednesday.

This was after Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula postponed a planned meeting at Parliament with members of the group at the eleventh hour.

In the statement, #UniteBehind said that the meeting with Mbalula was arranged last week Thursday after two trains were set alight at Cape Town Central train station, destroying 18 coaches at a cost of over R60 million.

But when #Unitebehind members arrived for the meeting on Wednesday, they were informed that Mbalula would not be attending. "We were hoping to get clear answers from the Minister regarding the status of the current Board of Control, lack of safety for commuters, poor security for PRASA's assets, and a clear plan [to fix the trains]," the group said.

#UniteBehind has been banging on the door of the Minister's office for months in a bid to hold him accountable and the rail agency accountable for the deteriorating state of the trains, particularly in the Western Cape.

In June, #UniteBehind door stopped Mbalula to hand over a memorandum during a scheduled media train trip from Khayelitsha to Langa. But the trip did not go as planned, with Mbalula abandoning the train midway to use ministerial transport instead.

When GroundUp asked Ayanda Paine, Mbalula's spokesperson, about why the Minister had not attended the meeting, she said only that the meeting had been postponed and that a new date would be announced soon. Paine did not respond to questions about why Mbalula had postponed at the last minute.

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