Prasa’s attempt to evict people living on railway tracks, yard in Langa hits a snag
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Cape Town - The attempt by the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) to evict people illegally occupying and living on railway tracks and a yard in Langa has hit a snag, as the case in the Western Cape High Court is ongoing.
Prasa approached the court on Tuesday, seeking to regain its portion of land, erf 114 412, which it said was essential for its operations and the resumption of train services along the relevant corridor and route.
The land, known as Siyahlala informal settlement, was invaded on January 4, 2019 by people from different areas in the province.
In February, Prasa visited the area, issuing letters of notice and urging the occupants to vacate its premises, saying failure to vacate within the provided timeline would result in further delays in Prasa’s repairing the railway infrastructure.
Prasa spokesperson Bane Ndlovu said the service was not stopped because of structures on the rail reserve, but for safety reasons, because the integrity of the signalling and overhead traction equipment (OHTE) infrastructure had been compromised, and then Prasa had lost the capability to supply 3kv traction to the OHTE and could no longer energise the lines to operate trains.
Ndlovu said train services were stopped because the rail infrastructure had been totally destroyed, specifically the signalling and OHTE equipment in particular sub-stations and tie-stations.
He said structures were built on the main running lines only after the suspension of services on November 3, 2019.
“Under the auspices of a multi-functional task team comprising representatives from local, provincial and national government (City, province, Human Settlements and Prasa), the process is already under way to source alternative, appropriately serviced areas for relocation settlements,” he said.
Transport and Public Works standing committee chairperson in the provincial legislature, Ricardo Mackenzie said the fact that Prasa had no choice but to approach the courts to remove illegal occupants from its land in Langa was a direct consequence of national failures.
Human Settlements Mayco member Malusi Booi said the City has been offering constructive solutions to this challenge throughout.
Booi said the City had also urged Prasa to take action early to prevent the situation from occurring.
He said the national government’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has identified potential land for the people occupying Prasa’s land.
“The Housing Development Agency was carrying out feasibility studies and would need to obtain planning approval if land is found to be suitable,” said Booi.
Siyahlala informal settlement committee secretary Nomzamo Gatuya said they did not oppose the plan for them to be relocated, but Prasa needed to find them land with services, including water, electricity and toilets.
A resident, Mlondolozi Magqabi, said they heard that land had been sett aside for them in Stellenbosch, but they would wait for Prasa and the authorities to inform them officially.
SA Communist Party (SACP) provincial secretary Benson Ngqentsu called on Prasa to expedite the reconstruction of the rail lines in the metro.
Ngqentsu said in the course of reconstructing the railway tracks, people who built their homes on the railway lines should be relocated to serviced sites close to town and industries.
“Working with the communities, Prasa should find a long lasting solution to ensure that our railway infrastructure is protected from the criminal network,” he said.
Langa ward councillor Samkelo John said the relocation of people living in shacks in Siyahlala or Intersite 1 was supported by all stakeholders.
John said they all agreed that the residents were willing to be relocated anywhere, as they were in need of proper shelter.
“Prasa informed us that they were in talks with the City (mayor Dan Plato) and the provincial Department of Human Settlements to find an alternative relocation site for the people of Siyahlala informal settlement,” said John.
He said they promised that they would come back to them sooner, because Prasa wanted the rehabilitation work of the central line to start in March/April before the end of the 2020/21 financial year.
“Our position is still the same: that we are in support of the relocation so that the central line can be operational again, as many people are struggling with transport,” he said.
Department of Transport and Public Works spokesperson Jandré Bakker said the department’s role was to identify land under its custodianship to release to the Housing Development Agency for the purpose of resettling those affected.
“The process is led by Prasa as the entity that needs to move those who unlawfully occupy land in the rail reserve. A status update on the process should be provided by Prasa,” he said.
He said the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works supported efforts for the resumption of the much-needed passenger rail service of the central line.