City of Cape Town fuming after Mbalula says devolution strategy for railway takeover not on track

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula
PHOTO: Marvin Charles/News24
  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has indicated that national government will miss its deadline to finalise a devolution strategy for the country's railway system.
  • The City of Cape Town has been pushing to take over the management of rail services in the metro.
  • The draft for the strategy is now expected next year. 

The City of Cape Town has been dealt another blow in its efforts to take over the management of rail services in the metro.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that national government will miss its deadline to finalise a devolution strategy for the country's railway system, with the draft now expected next year. 

The City of Cape Town, which has been pushing to take over the management of rail services in the metro, has accused Mbalula of refusing permission to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to share critical information with the City about the state of its operations and assets in Cape Town.

It says the information is crucial to advance the City's rail feasibility study, aimed at shortening timeframes to devolve rail to the City.  

In his letter to Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, Mbalula wrote: "My department, together with Prasa, has not been given a directive by the government and me to start with any form of devolution. The devolution exercises in the country will be guided by the devolution strategy, which is currently in the development phase and is to be completed in 2024."

According to Mbalula, the national Department of Transport must ensure the draft strategy is submitted to the transport minister by 2024, who must then still promulgate it.

The City's mayoral committee for urban mobility Rob Quintas said the message from Mbalula was clear:

He expects the City of Cape Town and millions of commuters to wait indefinitely while the national government continues to miss deadline after deadline to devolve rail to the City.

"The white paper on national rail policy that was approved in May 2022 states passenger rail needs to be devolved to capable local governments. The policy stated a devolution strategy was to be implemented from 2023, which the minister now confirms is delayed until at least 2024 when a draft strategy is to be handed to the transport minister," he added. 

Quintas added that the City had concluded the first deliverable of its rail feasibility study, namely the inception report, and was compiling a status quo report on the state of passenger rail in Cape Town.

"However, the minister has to date refused permission to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa to share this critical information with the City about the state of its operations and rail assets in Cape Town. Without Prasa's assistance and the national government's cooperation, it will be extremely difficult to conclude this aspect of the feasibility study, which aims to shorten timeframes to devolve rail to the City," he said. 

Quintas stressed:

I am saying to Mr Mbalula: we are not going to wait. Cape Town's commuters do not have the luxury of time, and neither do we. We need an affordable, functional rail service running daily in our City right now.

He added that the City was determined to find ways of working around this challenge should the national government undermine its devolution efforts and requests for information.

"We remain committed to working with Prasa and assisting as far as we can in restoring passenger rail. The City will also provide all assistance to the national government in devolving rail without delay in the interest of Capetonians, who have waited long enough for affordable, reliable rail service," he said. 



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