South Africa's number one has described Ekurhuleni, where the official launch of a multibillion-rand train manufacturing plant was held, as the engine of economic growth in the country.
"Ekurhuleni is proving to be the real engine of economic growth. This factory is not only about building trains, but advancing the industrialisation of our economy," President Cyril Ramaphosa told guests at the manufacturing plant in Nigel, Gauteng on Thursday.
The plant is expected to deliver two new trains by December 2018, an additional nine by March 2019 and an estimated 56 over the next two years.
The state-of-the-art plant, according to the president, serves as a catalyst of transformation for passenger rail service in South Africa.
"We will rely on passenger rail to carry millions of South Africans. Our trains transport 2.5 million people every day and [this] will rise to five million people every day. Therefore a facility like this is important," Ramaphosa said.
"Therefore it is essential to ensure passenger rail service is safe and affordable," he added.
Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande, who described the plant as a "historic, state-of-the-art, innovative facility", revealed that the African Union (AU) chose South Africa to manufacture trains for the whole African continent.
"That is a fantastic achievement," Ramaphosa said.
"This is the sector we want to promote and grow. We want to build more and more factories that will manufacture more products throughout the country," he added.
Ramaphosa also hailed the Gibela project for addressing the issue of unemployment in South Africa.
"The majority of people who work here are below [the age of] 35 years. That is fantastic because it addresses youth unemployment," Ramaphosa said.
Vandalism on trains
Nzimande also said the threat of vandalism of trains in South Africa would "hopefully be put to an end".
"We hope that what we are doing today will put an end to vandalism. I will be holding an imbizo in Cape Town this weekend to encourage the community to protect our rail infrastructure," Nzimande told guests.
Ramaphosa was of the view that the new trains would redefine passenger rail services in the country.
"We want our train service to improve the quality of life. The train sets being manufactured will improve the reliability and comfort ability of the service," Ramaphosa concluded.
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