South Africa


Slain activist Loyiso Nkohla and relocation of railway line occupiers under spotlight at Prasa briefing

Slain activist Loyiso Nkohla and relocation of railway line occupiers under spotlight at Prasa briefing
Informal structures on the railway line in Philippi on the Cape Flats on 11 June 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Community activist Loyiso Nkohla was remembered in Parliament as discussions turned to the relocation of people living on railway tracks in Cape Town.

“Nkohla was my friend for almost 15 years,” said MP Bheki Hadebe in Parliament on Tuesday. During a briefing that unpacked investigations and corrective measures at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), issues of the Central Line — and the death of Loyiso Nkohla, a community activist and former politician — were also raised. 

Nkohla worked with community members living on railway tracks in Philippi and represented the community in talks with Prasa over their relocation. He was shot and killed in March after a meeting at the Philippi train station. 

Loyiso Nkohla and ANC councillor Bheki Hadebe opened a case after receiving several death threats. (Photo: Lindile Mbontsi / Daily Sun)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Shock and sadness after former ‘poo fighter’ Loyiso Nkohla gunned down in Philippi

During Tuesday’s meeting, Prasa officials claimed success in combating construction syndicates that prevented them from doing their work. Hadebe questioned Prasa about this success, as the matter was “close to my heart”.

The acting chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Sakhumzi Somyo, told Prasa officials that Nkohla had been Hadebe’s friend, as Hadebe sat quietly and wiped his eyes. 

Somyo said, “The quicker something is done, the better” in regards to finding Nkohla’s killers.  

Hadebe explained he was due at the meeting that Nkohla attended before his death, but instead, he was on a trip with Parliament.

“Had I not been deployed to Mozambique, I would have been there.” 

He sent a member from the South African National Civics Organisation in his place, who ended up being shot and is still in hospital. He was one of three people wounded in the shooting that claimed Nkohla’s life. One of the wounded was a 35-week pregnant woman, who recently gave birth to a boy, named in Nkohla’s honour, reported the Cape Argus.  

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mourners pay tribute to Loyiso Nkhohla the ‘true activist who was a unifier’

“We share that pain that the Honourable Member has expressed,” said Prasa group CEO Hishaam Emeran, adding that the rail agency had lost a “huge ally” in the relocation process. Emeran said Prasa would try to accelerate the process of relocation and restore the Central Line corridor to full capacity. 

Frustration over relocation 

In closing the meeting, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga expressed her “frustration” at the City of Cape Town over the relocation. She said that while Prasa had the mandate to run trains, the Constitution gave both the national housing department and local authorities the responsibility of providing housing. 

An issue of frustration for her was that Prasa was now providing housing in the Central Line relocation, which was taking up resources from the agency. Chikunga said money had been allocated from the Human Settlements Department via the Housing Development Agency (HDA) for the relocation. However, delays in the City of Cape Town meant the money could not be spent immediately. 

This week, the City of Cape Town and the national Department of Human Settlements had a war of words over the issue, with Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi stating that R111-million had been transferred to the HDA to speed up service delivery interventions, to provide services in 16 informal settlements in Khayelitsha and address the Prasa railway line relocations, after the city said it had no funds. 

“The city has, however, since indicated it would be difficult to spend the funds provided by the Department of Human Settlements, citing it was almost the end of the financial year,” said Kubayi. 

The City of Cape Town said Kubayi’s assertions were “inaccurate and unhelpful”.  In a statement, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said the city was grateful for the funds and intended to use them for the informal settlement upgrades, but would do so lawfully. 

He said it was impossible to spend the funding received on 30 March in the remaining weeks ahead of the city’s financial year ending in June 2023. “Due to the time required to meet planning and procurement regulations, the city cannot lawfully use the R111-million allocation for programmes before June 2023, and it cannot lawfully use it in the next financial year without rollover permission.” 

Chikunga said delays in relocating communities cost money, including in getting contractors ready to work on the line and putting the infrastructure in place for trains to operate once the relocation is complete. DM


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