Zuma takes a train ride
He wants to assess public transport - and he got an earful from commuters, despite their excitement at the surprise visit by VIPs
President Jacob Zuma left Pretoria on Thursday morning on a packed Metrorail trail heading to Johannesburg.
The president moved from one coach to the other greeting and talking briefly to commuters.
He was with Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane — sharing jokes and laughing loudly.
Zuma had arrived at around 7am at Pretoria’s main Bosman train station on Thursday morning to take a train ride.
He went to buy his train ticket, surprising early morning commuters who stopped and stared at the huge contingent of police officers, Metrorail staff and numerous news crews.
On the train, commuters spoke emotionally regarding the “poor” train service to the president.
“We are struggling, president. The trains are always overloaded like this — this is how we survive”, said one commuter.
Many commuters took photographs of the president and the premier using their cellphone.
“I am so glad I have seen the president for the first time. This is amazing,” said another.
Earlier, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa and other officials were at the station.
Zuma’s tour, dubbed “The President’s Monitoring Visit 2012” was an opportunity for him to assess public transport in Gauteng during rush hour.
He was expected to board the train from Pretoria to Sandton, from there take a Gautrain to Park Station, and then proceed with a ride on a Rea Vaya bus on his way to Soweto.
- Dozens of schoolchildren rushed to see President Jacob Zuma as he embarked from a Metrorail train at the Rhodesfield station in Kempton Park.
But the presidential bodyguards pushed away the schoolchildren, restraining them from getting close to the president.
The evidently excited minors burst into a chorus of Zuma’s signature song “Umshini wami”, while dancing.
Zuma and his huge entourage, including ministers, disembarked from the train and went to the upper platform to board the Gautrain to Sandton.
SA National Defence Force and SA Police Service helicopters hovered over the train station and followed the Gautrain.
- From Sandton the delegation headed for Park Station.
The president and his entourage arrived to wild celebrations and cheering at South Africa’s main public transport hub.
Zuma walked around the station, greeting and waving at the multitudes, as people who jostled to catch a glimpse of the president.
Shop owners looked equally surprised, many of them standing at entrances and taking photographs of the large crew.
He then proceeded to the adjacent Wanderers Street taxi rank, where he spoke to several taxi drivers and passengers.
Many passengers complained about the rising costs of public transport. Most passengers appealed to the president to intervene and arrest the run-away transport costs.
At the taxi platform for mini-buses heading to Nkandla - Zuma’s hometown - some commuters offered the president a choice seat to travel next to them.
But instead Zuma led his entourage to the Rea Vaya bus system, where he bought his ticket to Soweto.
The delegates arrived in Soweto after 11am.
- Commenting on his morning's trip, the president said problems at the passenger train service were detrimental to South Africa’s economic growth and development.
“I have experienced it for myself. I have spoken to the workers on the Metrorail trains. They have complained largely about the train service,” he said.
“When I used the Gautrain it was a different experience altogether — it is efficient, quick and makes people certain about their business. This is the kind of development South Africa needs, though some were criticising for the (Gautrain) development”.
Zuma said public transport systems in the country had to change.
“Commuters were complaining. I have been told that the trains are not reliable, there is no security and at times they (the trains) just stop in the middle of nowhere.
“Workers are struggling to get to work, that is not good for the economy,” he told reporters.
“I am more convinced now that we need faster and [more] secure trains.”