CAPE TOWN - Chaos broke out on Tuesday as members of the civil society coalition, Unite Behind protested outside Cape Town central station during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit and the unveiling of two trains.
The members said they were there to show their frustration and to demand better rail services and to ask Ramaphosa to listen to the people who use trains as their means of transport on a daily basis.
Unite Behind secretary member, Zackie Achmat said Ramaphosa’s train unveiling was a political stunt which was used to pretend that the national government was giving back to the people.
“Former president Jacob Zuma ensured that [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa] Prasa cannot run on time by stealing its money. I then asked the president where are the 2 000 coaches that are broken, instead, you come here and you pretend that you are giving us something,” said Achmat.
“What I can tell you today, is that these trains are not going to run on peak hours, they know it. It’s an election stunt. Everyone here, particularly the security guards know the difficult times we have on the trains.”
Ramaphosa was in Cape Town for the launch of the new trains belonging to Prasa.
During the unveiling at the Cape Town central station, Ramaphosa said of hiks recent experience in Tshwane: "I went onto a train in Soshanguve hoping to be in Pretoria in about 30 minutes. It took us three full hours to get to Pretoria, firstly the train arrived late and it was overcrowded and the people who were being transported were frustrated, but they also told me that, president, this is our daily experience.
"I promised that we are going to make sure that our trains run on time, which I have discussed with the minister, with the chairperson of the board and with the management and that is something that is soon going to be the experience of the past, because we are going to improve rail transportation, we are going to make sure that our trains arrive on time and they are not crowded but more importantly that they are safe.”
Responding to Ramaphosa's remarks, Achmat said: “The president got stuck for three hours but the workers who use the trains get stuck every day, they lose their jobs, they get warnings after warnings, they have stress, they don’t get to see their families until late at night. So we asked president Ramaphosa for a meeting and he promised to arrange a meeting.”
He told the protesters that the Unite Behind members were going to write a letter to the president on Tuesday, which they would demand his response after three days.
“When we go back to the office today, we are going to write a letter immediately and if we don’t get a response in three days, we promise we will come back with radical action. We are not afraid. President Ramaphosa has a very hard job, he’s trying to do his best. So we say to him, don’t make your job more difficult but help us fix the trains and we will help you fix the trains,” he said.
African News Agency (ANA)