SA has lost 3 600km of rail tracks and 4 600km worth of cables

A view of the rail way track lining the seashore in St James, Cape Town. | Jason Boud Independent Newspapers

A view of the rail way track lining the seashore in St James, Cape Town. | Jason Boud Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 11, 2024


South Africa has lost more than 3 600 kilometres of rail way due to theft and vandalism.

This was revealed by the DA’s shadow Minister of Service and Administration, Dr Leon Schreiber, in a statement on Wednesday.

According to Schreiber, these revelations have been confirmed to him by the Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan in a response to the DA’s question this week.

Schreiber has accused the ANC of presiding over a shambolic 30-year tenure characterised by corruption and decaying infrastructure.

“Over the past three decades, the ANC has presided over the destruction of at least 3 636km of South Africa’s railway tracks. If one laid out the full length of railway lines destroyed by the ANC, it would stretch all the way from Cape Town to Kilimanjaro,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber said more than 3 600km of rail line has fallen into disuse which is equivalent to Cape to Kilimanjaro trip.

“A total of 3 636 kilometres of railway track have fallen into disuse since April 1994 to the end of November 2023. This is enough railway track to cover a round-trip on the previously-popular freight corridor from Johannesburg to Durban – three times over. It also means that the ANC has presided over the destruction of 10km of railway lines per month, every single month, for the past 30 years. Even this figure is likely an undercount, as it does not include the additional kilometres of passenger railway lines similarly destroyed,” he said.

The DA said the ANC, which has failed to maintain existing infrastructure, cannot be trusted to build bullet trains.

“This information exposes the dishonesty of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s delusional claims that the ANC supposedly plans to build ‘bullet trains’. Over the past 30 years, all the ANC has achieved is to put a bullet into the heart of South Africa’s train system.

“But the collapse of freight rail is only one part of the full extent of transport infrastructure collapse presided over by the ANC government. Through its policy of cadre deployment and endemic corruption, the ANC has systematically destroyed key elements of the infrastructure our country and economy depends on to survive,” he said.

According to the DA, not only did Gordhan admit to the rail line problem but also to the scourge of cable theft which is reported to be over 4 633km worth of cables.

“In addition to the collapse of railways, Gordhan also admitted that, between 2019 and 2023, copper cable measuring 4 633km was stolen from Transnet. If one laid out the full length of copper cable lost just by Transnet in only four years, it would stretch across the breadth of the United States. This figure is also a vast undercount, as it does not include the copper cable lost by other government entities,” he said.

Schreiber said the destruction of infrastructure also includes roads managed by Sanral.

“Our country’s roadways have similarly not been spared from ANC-engineered destruction. In response to another DA question posed to the Minister of Transport, it was revealed that out of the 22 197km of national roads managed by SANRAL, only 449km, 688km and 1 308km were resurfaced in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively. This means that, each year, the ANC maintains only about 2% of national roadways,” he said.