Citizens say his experience of a three-hour train delay is nothing compared to the poor services they must endure daily.
The president’s frustration on Monday morning at his long wait – following delays that characterised his train trip from Mabopane to Pretoria as part of an ANC election campaign – has elicited little sympathy from South Africans who experience such incidents, and much more besides, daily.
Instead, they say Ramaphosa should get off his high horse and pay unannounced visits to taxi ranks, home affairs offices, informal settlements and health services to experience the poor services that are a constant.
What was supposed to be a short train ride from Mabopane to Pretoria lasting 45 minutes ended up taking more than three hours during Ramaphosa’s campaign trail this week.
Many South Africans were happy that the president got a taste of what they go through in almost all government departments and public services – and now that he has experienced their problems of shoddy transport, they say, he must act on this.
City Press went out on the street to get the views of people who often face mediocre services from the country’s public institutions.
Patients need to wake up as early as possible to avoid long queues at public hospitals.
Vuyo Tyesi (32), from Lenasia South, told City Press about the shocking number of hours he has had to wait in various public hospitals and clinics to be attended to and the blunt, rude staff.
“I woke up at 5am to come here to Chris Hani Baragwanath just so that I could go home before the hospital’s closing time, which is 4pm. The staff are rude and the queues are long.
“It is tiring because I was once turned away when I came to fetch my mother’s medication, for nonsensical reasons. I pity patients who are admitted to Bara,” said Tyesi.
Gladys Sagela, a woman in her sixties from Orange Farm, who also visited Bara on Wednesday, said she had to stand in long queues, “only to be shown less respect” by health workers.
“If I was not sick, I wouldn’t be here. I arrived here at 6am and the service only starts at 9am.
“I wish Ramaphosa can come and see how we queue here. My feet are killing me from standing since this morning,” Sagela said.
Joseph Namane from White City is a commuter from Bara Taxi Rank. He said that in order to be at work on time, he has to leave his house two hours before.
He said it would take him 25 minutes to get to work if he were using a car.
“Look at the time now; it is late. I am in the taxi because I know the circuitous routes that this taxi takes and still, I will be delayed. Even if Ramaphosa was to use a taxi for a day, it wouldn’t make any difference.
“I know that the president doesn’t care about me or any other ordinary citizens and what they go through daily because he is rich,” said Namane.
Ntombi Ndwai (47) relies on the train to get to work or run errands in the city because of infrequent jobs that she gets. She says the situation of being stuck on trains for hours, or trains not being operational, lowers the little income she receives.
“There are no jobs, so when you get that little income, you plan for it. I buy a monthly ticket for the train. Sometimes it gets stuck or simply doesn’t operate. As a result, I have to come back home and I miss a day at work because there is no extra money for rainy days. The jobs I do are ‘no work, no pay’ jobs,” said Ndwai.
Zamimpilo, in Riverlea, is an area that is home to disused mines – attracting illegal miners. Some have died while looking for gold in the old mine shafts; others have been trapped beneath the earth’s surface for days.
Vuyo Geya (33) has been living in the area for almost 10 years, after leaving Orlando because he could no longer afford the rent.
He said Zamimpilo was no longer safe for anyone.
“We find bodies every day because of these illegal miners, who fight among themselves,” said Geya.
When asked about Ramaphosa’s train ride, Geya referred us back to 2009, when former human settlements minister Tokyo Sexwale spent a night in a shack in Diepsloot.
“I don’t blame Ramaphosa. Even if he was to come here for a day, it wouldn’t change anything. Sexwale once slept in a shack for a night and he never did anything about these informal settlements that we are trapped in.”
Smiley Mathebula (22), who finished his matric last year, complained about the lack of housing, electricity and transport.
“I used to walk all the way from here [Zamimpilo] to Orlando, where I was at school. It was about 10km. During exams it was worse because I was reliant on the train. I would wake up at 6am.
“The area is unsafe. A woman was killed in her shack and the perpetrators took everything.”
Two old ladies, who have been living in the settlement for more than 25 years, said they had lost hope for better services.
They want housing that the government promised them, and allege that this has been given to foreigners.
“I have had all my children here,” said Elizabeth Mavuso (65).
“I have been promised a flat. Later, I saw foreign people being moved in to occupy the flat that was supposed to be for me. When I asked about it, I was told that I am old and I won’t be able to use the stairs. I have given up hope of getting a decent house. All these government officials come here and give us endless promises. Even Johannesburg’s mayor, Herman Mashaba, has been here.”
Added Suzan Tebe (56): “All we wanted were houses, and now you can see that I am awaiting death. What am I going to do? We always had councillors who were corrupt and didn’t care about us. Now we live with these foreigners, something that could have been avoided a long time ago.”
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