Trains carry more than half of the commuters in Cape Town. Picture: Bheki Radebe/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - The United National Transport Union (Untu), the Federation of South African Trade Unions' (Fedusa) affiliate in the passenger rail industry, will oppose "unrealistic plans" by the City of Cape Town to take over the management of embattled Metrorail in the region from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), Untu said on Saturday.
 
On Thursday Cape Town’s mayoral committee announced that it had given the city’s transport and urban development authority the go-ahead to approach the national transport department for approval and funding to take over Metrorail.
 
The announcement was "totally misleading to members of the public and completely upsetting Prasa employees", the union said.
 
“When the media asked Untu to comment about the City of Cape Town’s plan we thought it was a joke. But now it seems it is true that they are continuing with their pre-election propaganda and misleading taxpayers and our members. They are dreaming about a pie in the sky that has no prospect of success at all,” Untu general secretary Steve Harris said.
 
“Untu will oppose any application to the department of transport to that effect as it could never be in the best interest of our members to become municipal workers; and as the majority union representing 50 percent of Prasa employees we cannot imagine why the city thinks the plan would be of any benefit to our members.”

It was "a global norm that governments and not municipalities fund" passenger rail services, as travelling by train was the cheapest form of transport intended to benefit the poorest of the poor, Harris said.
 
Fedusa also cautioned in the statement that this "utopian dream by the City of Cape Town should not be used as a cheap political ploy that fails to address the transport and safety needs of the communities that are most reliant on the system".  
 
"In South Africa, government has continuously ignored Prasa’s constant pleas for help, but has granted South African Airways (SAA) yet another R4 billion bailout. Fedusa considers it totally disgraceful that in light of the recent crime statistics revealed, both SAPS [South African Police Service] and the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] have not been given a significant injection of vital resources to ensure that these state organs can uphold their constitutional obligations towards our members, South African citizens. and Prasa. Instead, the minister of police alludes to the reduction of the police force; the brakes must be put on this misguided, self-serving, and regressive state of affairs," Fedusa said.
 
"As a consequence of this dire lack of resources we don’t see railway police at our stations because the safety of poor commuters and Untu’s members is seemingly perceived as not being a priority. Similarly, we don’t see the police doing anything to prevent the vandalism and torching of trains or using crime intelligence to infiltrate copper theft syndicates who are the main cause of trains being constantly late. 

"The daily frustrations of our members are dire, and alongside Untu, Fedusa will continue to champion for the reinstatement of the railway police instead of private security, who themselves fear attacks from criminals and arsonists," Fedusa said.     
African News Agency