The National Department of Transport prioritized rail during the launch of this year’s October Transport Month (OTM) campaign on 3 October 2022. Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula highlighted the revitalization, restart, and accomplishments of the Rail Corridor Recovery Programme, which was put in place by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) in April 2021, at the formal opening of the 2022 OTM campaign. In response to damage to rail corridors such as those between Pretoria and Pienaarspoort, Pretoria and Kaalfontein, Leralla and Johannesburg, and Naledi and Johannesburg, Prasa implemented the program.
Since then, the Pretoria-Pienaarspoort line alone has undergone significant renovations thanks to the installation of contemporary high-speed circuit breakers, enhanced signaling equipment, and the use of aluminum wires to prevent copper theft. Train service on the corridor has successfully resumed as a result of this. Additionally, Minister Mbalula will demonstrate how seamlessly Pretoria’s transportation systems are integrated. a precinct around a train station that offers additional forms of local transportation, such as buses, taxis, and other services.
The Minister will outline the OTM program for the month as well as other plans and achievements in the nation’s transportation industry. Road safety initiatives to lessen the carnage on South Africa’s roads and the Vala Zonke pothole eradication program will also be given a lot of attention. Minister Mbalula will board a train at Pienaarspoort Station in Mamelodi and travel to Pretoria A Station in the city center to see the restored rail services firsthand.
Operation Vala Zonke
Fikile Mbalula, the transport minister, urged the public to use a recently launched app to report potholes on municipal and provincial roads in August 2022. The minister announced that the app will be accessible on Google Play and the Apple App Store during his speech at the beginning of Operation Vala Zonke, a statewide effort to fix potholes.
“The app will work in conjunction with Sanral’s pothole management app and will allow the public to raise any issues, upload pictures of potholes, and provide real-time location of the road on an interactive map that will show the owners of the different roads. The app will also provide status updates on issues raised using a pothole ticketing system. The information gets assigned to the relevant authority, depending on where the road is. The information then gets assigned to the relevant authority, depending on where the road is, and the maintenance depot responsible for that road attends to fixing the pothole,” Mbalula said
Sanral the organization in charge of carrying out this program, and will carefully monitor and evaluate the results of the interventions over the following six months. Sanral will produce audit reports that will serve as the foundation for validating the work completed and the turnaround time for pothole repairs. To ensure that potholes are repaired quickly, Sanral will coordinate the effort of working with the provinces and municipalities.
“This campaign will change the face of our municipal and provincial roads from pothole-riddled to an acceptable state of repair. This launch will be replicated across the country with premiers and MECs leading provincial launches,” Mbalula said.
“Sanral has a policy of fixing any reported potholes within 48 hours. While national roads are overwhelmingly in a pristine condition, we recognize that provincial and municipal roads require a decisive strategy and active support to augment capacity gaps,” the minister said.“Fixing the potholes on the country’s roads is an enormous task, which will take time, but we are confident that through the coordinated approach led by Sanral, we will be able to tackle this task and make a telling difference that our people can see and experience,” he said.
Mbalula stated that potholes have persisted as a problem and a threat to road users across the nation. The minister said, “Potholes are particularly hazardous at night or during rainy weather.”In order to support government efforts to maintain and enhance the road infrastructure, the administration says it has committed to contacting private businesses, communities, and other stakeholders.
“Through partnerships with institutions of learning and the sector education and training authorities, we will infuse a strong skills development methodology into the intervention. A skills revolution must become a pillar of this intervention at all levels of government,” the minister concluded.
State of the Rail system in SA
It has snowballed into the breakdown of the entire public infrastructure, resulting in a system failure, due to lack of infrastructure maintenance, corruption in which dubious black economic empowerment companies have been given contracts and frequently build flimsy infrastructure, and cadre deployment without the necessary technical skills who have poorly looked after public assets.
At almost all levels, South Africa’s public rail, roads, and state infrastructure have been completely taken over. Policies have been corrupted, contracts have been awarded to unqualified “BEE” contractors with political connections, and incompetent cadres have been put in charge of managing crucial assets. Infrastructure upkeep budgets for public transportation have also been recorded at practically every level.
Only 13 out of 216 contracts awarded that above R10 million between 2012 and 2015 at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa were legal, according to a National Treasury examination conducted in 2020. (PRASA).
The infrastructure for South Africa’s rail, ports, and logistics has deteriorated due to a long history of instability, ineptitude, and corruption at state-owned companies. As a result, many local exporters are turning to other markets in the region, such as Mozambique and Namibia, making South Africa’s exports uncompetitive. At the Durban port, there are expensive delays.
Overall, as a result of the state of South Africa’s roads, rails, and ports, the country no longer has a working integrated public logistics infrastructure. The integrated public logistics infrastructure system currently has a system failure.
Fast-growing neighboring country ports would have long taken over the role of Durban port. Subsequently, a new government initiative to replace the delayed dig-out port development, with a berth-deepening project at the Durban container terminal and an infill development at Salisbury Island, has not even come out of the starting blocks yet. These planned projects were to increase the capacity of Durban’s contain terminal to service the new generation ships of 20 000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). The tender for the Durban berth development project was canceled after it was found that it was allegedly corruptly awarded.
Transnet has shut down the Dom Pedro Quay liquid bulk terminal in Port Elizabeth despite the lack of port capacity. In order to relieve strain on Port Elizabeth’s harbor, the development of a liquid bulk terminal in the Port of Ngqura, close to Port Elizabeth, was put on hold for a considerable amount of time in 2020, leaving oil companies scrambling to make alternative arrangements. In response to a deluge of claims of corruption, nepotism, and fronting, Transnet is currently investigating all significant tenders, contracts, and concessions it has granted in recent years.
In 2020, Thamsanqa Mabena, a member of the parliamentary portfolio committee said: “That project is not going to happen, that project is not even budgeted for in the Department of Transport budget. I’ve asked questions in Parliament, and I said to the minister, tell us in the next three years what the department is budgeted for the Moloto rail corridor, his response was we did an application through the national treasury, and the project we were told that it will not be funded.”
The South African rail system, particularly it is commuter rail infrastructure, has been wilfully vandalized as a result of the breakdown of rule of law throughout the nation. Covid-19 completely destroyed the infrastructure and stations of the already failing commuter rail system. The theft and vandalism are attributed to unscrupulous and inept managers of the Passenger Rail Association of SA (Prasa), according to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Mbalula said: “The mismanagement here at Prasa has brought this mess wherein people were allowed to encroach and without any security, and here we are, we are stuck with people who have built shanties on top of the tracks”.
It has been claimed that taxi associations purposefully degrade commuter rail systems in order to divert passengers to taxis rather than trains. Ricardo Khan, a taxi driver in Eerste Rivier, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April of this year after admitting to setting fire to a train in order to disrupt commuter passenger services and encourage people to take taxis instead. The long-distance business Intercape wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa in May of this year requesting his intervention, claiming that taxi drivers were shoving long-distance bus drivers off the road so that passengers would use taxis in their place.
The taxi industry makes sure that South Africans, including the vast bulk of the labor force, arrive at their destinations and depart from them on time and for the least amount of money. Over 15 million commuters are transported daily by taxi companies, according to the Statistics SA 2013 Household Survey. Every day, adults and children are able to go to and from work so they can support their families. Consumables are now more widely available, enabling tens of thousands of people to watch their favorite sporting events in energetic stadiums, participate in their communities by attending meetings, weddings, and funerals, and cast their votes.