Stuck train opens president's eyes to commuters' daily frustrations

Vusi Nzapheza Straight & 2 Beers
President Cyril Ramaphosa on the train from Mabopane, north of Pretoria, to Pretoria station.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on the train from Mabopane, north of Pretoria, to Pretoria station.
Image: Twitter/ANCJHB

Beer spilled out of my nostrils when I heard that President Matamela Ramaphosa got stuck for hours on a train this week. The smooth-talking one was joined by Gauteng premier David Makhura on a campaign drive to woo Tshwane voters when Metrorail grounded to a halt.

My mirth was provoked by the rude awakening which greeted our leaders. While living in Cape Town some years ago, I used Metrorail to get to work and I am familiar with the reality of the shoddy service provided by the parastatal.

The billionaire president was oblivious to the reality of thousands of commuters who are failed by the state-owned company on a daily basis. Instead of pressing palms and charming the voters, Ramaphosa had to listen to tales of woe from disgruntled commuters. The president's misadventure drove home the lack of service delivery that ordinary people contend with every day.

Metrorail had previously borne the brunt of angry commuters who would burn the coaches when yet another train failed to arrive on time.

Instead of attending to the problem, politicians would rightfully condemn the vandalism but fail to improve the service.

This is despite the billions of rands Metrorail parent company Prasa has spent buying new trains and technology in the last few years.

The massive injection has not improved the shockingly below par service and is symptomatic of how this government keeps failing citizens.

I do not even want to get started on the abortion that is Eishkom this week.

In political speak, Ramaphosa rushed to threaten the Prasa bosses with dismissal if they do not shape up but it sounded all too familiar and stale. South Africans have previously heard how heads will roll but experience has shown that it is all talk and no action. At the height of the delays at Medupe power station, then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba threatened Eishkom management that their heads would roll. Instead, their bank accounts continued to bulge while the country was plunged into darkness.

While he was Mpumalanga premier, deputy president David Mabuza threatened municipal officials who failed to balance the books with dismissal. However, not a single mayor or manager fell on his sword when the auditor-general couldn't make heads or tails with their financial statements.

Ramaphosa sounds sincere, but I doubt Metrorail will improve until politicians ditch their big cars and use trains.

As it is, Prasa remains without a full time chief executive officer after the resignation of its sixth boss in five years last month. Hopefully, Ramaphosa will hop onto a train again soon to assess if his threat was worth a quart of beer but I won't bet my last six pack on it. Election season will be over soon and it'll be business as usual when politicians ditch their stunts and revert to their cushioned existence.

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