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2024 elections — Where major political parties stand on uncertain future of public transport

2024 elections — Where major political parties stand on uncertain future of public transport
Trains at the Paarden Eiland Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa depot in Cape Town. (Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks)

We sent questions to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party and Rise Mzansi.

Today’s questions and answers to the major political parties deal with public transport.

We emailed our questions to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party, and Rise Mzansi on 13 March and sent follow-up queries to those who did not respond. Some have still not responded.

Answers are very lightly edited for grammar and typos.

What is your party’s position on the devolution of the management of Metrorail from Prasa to municipalities?

ANC: The ANC failed to answer our questions.

DA: The DA supports the devolution of power from transport service providers to competent local and provincial authorities, where feasible.

EFF: The EFF failed to answer our questions.

IFP: The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has always been a strong advocate of a federal form of decentralised government in South Africa. We are proud to have played a crucial role at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) in securing the nine provinces that exist today, each with its own legislative sphere. We firmly believe that Metrorail management should be devolved from Prasa to individual provinces and local areas, as they are best placed to identify and tackle the specific challenges and needs within their jurisdictions.

FF Plus: The FF Plus is of the opinion that power should be devolved. Municipalities and provinces should have more powers and responsibilities, and the national government a diminished role. The functionality of municipalities should however first be restored prior to devolving the management of Metrorail and Prasa to the local sphere.

ActionSA: ActionSA believes in the decentralisation of Prasa’s management by transferring control of commuter rail services to metropolitan or provincial governments, where feasible.

PA: It is another example of the sad state of affairs of all our state-owned entities under the current government. They are now trying something different when it should have worked as it was intended to under Prasa. If we leave it to any municipality, then the success of Metrorail in that city or town will depend on the competency of that particular municipality.

It could be successful in a city like Johannesburg if you have an excellent MMC for transport like the PA’s Kenny Kunene in charge. Even then, though, complex coalition politics kick in and Mr Kunene’s programme might find itself not being funded because another political party doesn’t want to give “him” the money from national or provincial level, or even from within the city’s own finance department. This is something we see happening even now, so what guarantee does one have that it won’t happen for the Metrorail — even though we so badly need to get trains running properly again.

Trains are the best form of public transport.

MK Party: The MK Party failed to respond to our questions.

Rise Mzansi: Availability of affordable, accessible public transport is critical for people and the economy. It is a travesty that the ANC has collapsed passenger rail — which should be the backbone of the public transport system — by mismanaging Prasa.

Rise Mzansi supports devolution of passenger rail service to provincial, regional and local authorities which are capable of managing passenger rail networks. The optimal solution may vary by region.

The goal of political negotiation and institutional design must be the creation of integrated public transport networks which address South Africa’s history of spatial inequality — where people live, where they work/go to school and how they get between the two.

What steps should provincial and national governments take to assist municipalities to improve public transport?

ANC: The ANC failed to respond to our questions.

DA: In addition to the powers and functions that would be devolved to competent local and provincial governments, the financial appropriations allocated to these functions and powers should also be devolved in order to improve local delivery of transport services.

EFF: The EFF failed to respond to our questions.

IFP: To enhance transportation services for both urban and rural commuters, the Inkatha Freedom Party will ensure that sufficient budget is allocated for investment in upgrading passenger transport services. This will ensure accessibility and safety for all, while also boosting economic and social activities. Additionally, the IFP will ensure proper maintenance and upgrading of road, rail, and port infrastructures to support public transportation services and ensure efficient and reliable transport infrastructure networks for citizens and South African business and industry.

FF Plus: The restoration of local government through a rehaul of the local government framework is important. Direct and indirect grants with regards to public transport is a short-term intervention to assist in improving public transport.

ActionSA: We believe that through a targeted, long-term plan of investing in key infrastructure projects, especially in transport systems, we will build the foundations required for South Africa’s economy to flourish and provide prosperity to our people. This will ensure that the national and provincial government collaborate with municipalities to identify critical opportunities for the expansion of affordable, reliable, and safe public transport to access economic opportunities.

PA: Major investment in rail travel is indeed a must. Our experience running travel portfolios in more than one metro, however, has also taught us to have more respect for the taxi industry than one commonly sees being expressed. The taxi industry is asking to be recognised for the public service it gives, and to be subsidised for it. This industry can be improved in so many ways if we partner with it as a government, including adding Wi-Fi, selling advertising on and in taxis and regulating the industry in a sensible way. Bus routes will also be important on major routes, but we need to automate the fare payment systems.

MK Party: The MK Party failed to respond to our questions.

Rise Mzansi: National and provincial governments can assist municipalities to develop regulatory and funding models. Few municipalities, mostly but perhaps not all metros, have proven capable of planning and operating effective public transport systems. There are political challenges for busing.

Passenger rail is highly efficient but is complex and expensive to build and requires national government involvement and support, including debt finance which must be approved by the National Treasury. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    “…has also taught us to have more respect for the taxi industry than one commonly sees being expressed…” The PA party has this statement the wrong way round. Taxis should have more respect for all road users and more importantly their passengers. nonetheless the acceptance of rail and bus is good and must be applied. as we have 87% of municipalities dysfunctional it should be at provincial/metro level. so, PA thinking is correct but a bit muddled.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Lol – two kids didn’t bother pitching for the exam whilst the PA answered the wrong paper

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