Mbalula gets on the rails to hear the complaints of commuters …



Commuters at Paarl station on Tuesday August 3 are rushing to get to the Bellville train. Commuters now have to use a train to get to their destination as the taxi route is closed due to the violence. (Photo: Suné Payne, Daily Maverick.)

Commuters from Cape Town made their way to Paarl station early on Tuesday, having been hampered by the ongoing closure of taxi line B97. Commuters have had to switch to alternative modes of transport, including more expensive trains and bus services, and have not been shy about expressing their frustration to the Minister of Transport.

The costs of the Golden Arrow buses between Mbekweni in Paarl and Bellville are “too high,” shouted commuters at Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, who traveled Tuesday August 3 alongside MEC from Western Cape Daylin Mitchell on a train from Paarl to Kraaifontein in the northern part of the Cape Town metro to check emergency measures following the closure of taxi line B97.

The route was closed by Mitchell in July, due to continued violence between rival taxi associations Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and Congress of Democratic Taxi Association (Codeta), which quickly spread to others parts of the Cape Town metro.

This means that taxi operators lined up with Cata and Codeta cannot operate between Mbekweni and the Bellville taxi stand, but other licensed operators can. Additional transportation has been put in place to assist commuters: nine additional Golden Arrow buses during peak hours and 45 additional Metrorail train services.

Inside an empty train station in Paarl where Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Western Cape MEC Daylin Mitchell were waiting to board a train bound for Kraaifontein to check the operation of emergency measures in the aim to help commuters affected by the closure of the B97 taxi line. (Photo: Suné Payne, Daily Maverick.)

However, during an interaction on the train, a woman shouted at Mbalula that the bus fare on Golden Arrow services was “too high” – a complaint Daily Maverick previously reported. During rush hour a bus ride from Mbekweni to Bellville cost 43 R. In comparison, a taxi cost 25 Rand and a single train trip cost 10 Rand.

A group of women who had traveled from Mbekweni to destinations such as Bellville and Cape Town shared several complaints about the current rail situation: Trains only run on weekdays and often arrive at platforms too late in the evening, which left women in a vulnerable situation. especially when you come home from train stations.

The train that Mbalula, her entourage and journalists had boarded from Paarl to Kraaifontein was initially delayed and stopped three times en route without explanation.

A woman said that trains are elke dag laat (late every day) which meant they were often late for work. “As women, our handbags get stolen by skollies,” said another. As Mbalula interacted with commuters about going to work, a passenger muttered to her friends “there are a lot of people who have lost their jobs”.

Asked by Daily Maverick what needs to be done to improve rail services, the group of women passengers said trains need to arrive on time. They also argued that a direct train service between Paarl and Cape Town is necessary, as commuters currently have to change trains at Bellville station before continuing to Cape Town CBD.

Another commuter, Luke Chagwiza from Kraaifontein, arrived at Paarl station just before 7 a.m. He said he was happy with the cheaper train option, R13 compared to the R25 taxi fare, but said the lines were too long when buying train tickets.

Chagwiza said he prefers having the option of using taxi and train services, with train travel being the most affordable option while taxis serve as an alternative means of transportation if trains are late.

“It also saves our pockets if you don’t have the money for a taxi,” said Chagwiza, who spends up to R20 a day on train services but is forced to fork out R50 if he needed to. ‘use a taxi.

Luke Chagwiza, a commuter from Kraaifontein, talks to media about traveling during the current closure of the B97 taxi route between Paarl and Bellville. (Photo: Suné Payne, Daily Maverick.)

At Eikenfontein station in Kraaifontein, where a press conference and site inspection took place after the train ride from Mbalula, Richard Walker, regional director of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) urged commuters report crime cases so that more police can be deployed in sensitive areas to ensure the safety of commuters.

Previously Monday August 2, Mbalula and Mitchell announced that the two rival taxi associations had agreed to a ceasefire. During Mbalula’s briefing, he asked all operators on Cape Town roads – except those affected by the B97 closure – to resume operations by Tuesday morning. Daily Maverick saw taxis driving around Paarl station while waiting for the train to arrive.

“It’s a breakthrough,” Mbalula said of the taxi ceasefire. However, an arbitration process is underway to decide which organization is legally authorized to operate on the B97 route.

Taxi services have been disrupted since early July, with 24 people killed, including taxi drivers and members of the public caught in the crossfire. In addition, 29 attempted murders were reported. Since the start of 2021, there have been 83 taxi-related killings in Cape Town.

Listen to MEC Mitchell explain the next steps in the taxi industry debacle and the role of his department:

Tuesday morning, Daily Maverick had seen a small number of taxis in Paarl and the northern suburbs.

Meanwhile, Cape Town Metropolitan Police arrested a taxi driver for possession of an unlicensed firearm. In a statement, metro police said officers stopped the vehicle at a joint roadblock with the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Milnerton. Police noticed the driver was carrying a gun holster and then recovered a Norinco 9mm pistol and five rounds from the vehicle. The driver was unable to produce a license for the firearm and was subsequently detained at Milnerton SAPS. DM



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