Cape Town – There is a new Day Zero looming for Capetonians in two to three years’ time, if the City fails to fix the transport crisis, says former mayoral committee member Brett Herron.
“We talked about Day Zero, which was all about the day we ran out of water. For me, the bigger crisis was always the day we have a complete collapse of the transport system.
“And what has happened in the last 18 months to me, it’s very clear there has been a decline in the availability of transport since the 31st of May. That decline has directly affected people who are public transport captives,” Herron, of the Good party, told the Cape Times.
The doom and gloom that surrounded Cape Town’s taps running dry has now been supplanted to worries over an increasingly gridlocked transport system, with commuters from the townships and Cape Flats battling to get to work on time each day due to diminishing transport options.
Mayor Dan Plato yesterday defended the City’s actions – or lack of action – failing to ease commuters’ fears. During a full council sitting, Plato said the previous MyCiTi contract for the Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain route was “legally flawed” and lawyers were astounded that it had been allowed to continue for as long as it did.
“Like with many other services that we are working hard to put right, including the N2 MyCiTi route serving the communities of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain and our plans to deliver social housing, I have watched the previous, failed politicians who worked in this City, go into overdrive to try and shift the blame from themselves.”
Herron said he had invited Plato to a public debate on the failure to keep the MyCiTi service from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain going.
Herron said the status of the previous contracts “is not relevant” and that the City was using the allegations of contract irregularity as a “smokescreen to hide that they are incompetent and never did the work”.
“The reason they are not getting it right and the reason they didn’t get it right before the 31st of May was because they didn’t negotiate with the taxi operators in the MyCiTi service in good faith.
“When the City signed the agreement in 2018 to extend the service for another year, it was on the clear understanding that the City’s transport department would negotiate and engage with Codeta and Mitchells Plain about a new business model which would see the Codeta and Mitchells Plain taxi associations play a bigger role in the actual operations of the buses.
“That was a clear condition for them agreeing to the one-year extension. Both Codeta and Mitchells Plain have told me they have had absolutely no engagement.
“So the City has dropped the ball. There was always a 31st of May, 2019 termination date for that contract and the City has not engaged with the taxi operations in an authentic way at all. The service has been discontinued because of the City’s own failures.
“Now they can talk about irregular contracts and failing to sign an SLA (service level agreement). I don’t know whether that’s true or not, politicians don’t sign contracts.
“The contract for the operations of that MyCiTi contract ran for five years uninterrupted. If there was something wrong with the contract, it’s really irrelevant to enter into a new contract because you just deal with whatever was wrong in the old contract in the new contract.
“They are misleading the people of Cape Town and they are misleading those 7 000 commuters who used to use that MyCiTi bus every day, who are now standing in the cold, in the dark and the rain in the morning trying to find alternative transport.
“It’s disgraceful. Codeta put out a statement when the service hadn’t been operating for 50 days and at that point they were saying Felicity Purchase (mayoral committee member for transport and urban development) hasn’t engaged us yet.
“So in my mind, the City leadership should have been engaging with the taxi operators, certainly in the weeks and months before the lapsing of the contract. They failed to do so.
“I have been told by the taxi operators that they reached out to the mayor and that he didn’t get back to them. I guess he is still getting back to them because they have not solved this problem.
“Unless the City is willing to negotiate with the taxi operators on the empowerment project which was transferring the operations from Golden Arrow Bus Services to these taxi-based operating companies, they are never going to get this thing on the back of the road.
“Metrorail has been in a state of crisis for a long time, which is really why we introduced the N2 MyCiTi express service, because we saw what was going on with Metrorail and that commuters were struggling already back in 2012.
“So all those commuters from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain who would use the Central Line or the railway lines from those areas, they are now doubly impacted because they don’t have access to the MyCiTi service, which operated on a 95% on-time schedule. They now have to rely on a service they might not operate or is cancelled, has severe delays and is severely overcrowded.
“We have a government that just doesn’t care to be frank. They don’t care about the people who live in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.
“They have not stepped up to resolve the MyCiTi service, which would bring some relief, and they are sending mixed and confused messages on the future of rail because on the one hand they say the provincial government wants to take over the service, and on the other hand the City has a business plan for taking over the rail service, and yet they are from the same political party.
“So they are playing politics without actually resolving the problem.”
This while some “transport captive” commuters have to resort to extreme measures to get to work or a meeting on time, Herron said.
“They have no other choice. They don’t have access to cars to join the traffic. I went out to Khayelitsha to see for myself and they are queueing from four in the morning in the rain, in the dark, to get into a taxi.
“I had people telling me they are paying four to six times more than when they were using the MyCiTi. I had one of them tell me to get to a meeting on time, he had to bribe all the people in the line in front of him just so that he could get into a taxi in order to not be late for a meeting at work.
“It’s a disaster and what this DA leadership is doing is hiding behind a court case, saying we can’t do anything now because Codeta is taking us to court.
“Any court case can be settled if you put your heart and mind into it. Meet with those parties and resolve the dispute so the litigation can be settled.
“But if you are going to sit on your hands and say we can’t do anything because there’s a court case, you are never going to solve the problem and you are failing in your responsibility as a leader.
“They have to get the MyCiTi service right because firstly there are commuters who are in crisis, the city is in crisis and those people who were in buses are now in minibus taxis. So there has to be more of them on the road, which is pushing road congestion upwards.
“The next phase of the MyCiTi is meant to connect Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain with Claremont and Wynberg. And there are about 1.4 million people living in those corridors.
“Also, the Hanover Parks, the Mannenbergs and the Philippis, all those communities had a chance to be connected to the next phase of the MyCiTi service, but if you have lost the trust of your partners – the taxi operators – you are never going to get phase 2 off the ground. So it’s not only about Inter Express, it’s about the whole future of BRT and the next phase of MyCiTi.
“The City has broken the trust of those taxi operators and those operators are no longer willing to engage and negotiate with the City on how will they launch the next phase of the MyCiTi service when they have already started building infrastructure.”