City of Cape Town to launch dispute mediation process on PRASA devolution, service standards

22nd September 2023

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says the city is briefing its lawyers to launch an intergovernmental dispute mediation process on passenger rail devolution and service standards.

Hill-Lewis says the city has been unable to form a joint devolution working committee with national government as it attempts to take over the services supplied by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) in Cape Town.

In May 2022, Cabinet passed the White Paper on National Rail Policy, which commits to devolving rail to capable metros, and to producing a Rail Devolution Strategy this year.

“While the transport director-general recently confirmed an intention to gazette the Devolution Strategy within 2023, the President has recently stated this would instead be by 2024,” says Hill-Lewis.

“The President further confirmed that devolution would entail ‘provision for the assignment of responsibility for managing of all rail functions to metros, in planning, funding, procurements, operations and maintenance of these lines’.”

However, notes Hill-Lewis, “we have been unable to secure a working committee on devolution despite President Cyril Ramaphosa previously committing to respond to our requests”.

“We have made this simple request to both previous and current Transport Ministers, and most recently to the President on 16 June, but to no avail.

“In Parliament, the President says ‘viva la cooperation’, but our experience has been the exact opposite,” says Hill-Lewis.

“We are in fact taken aback by the President’s claims of broad consultations taking place towards a national devolution strategy.

“As a leading city preparing to take over passenger rail, we are completely in the dark about these alleged consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including transport authorities, of which we are one.”

Hill-Lewis adds that PRASA has opted not to sign a Service Level Agreement with the City of Cape Town on targets to improve rail services, which should lay the foundation for devolution, and is a legal requirement under the National Land Transport Act.

“Without these critical measures, we fear that devolving passenger rail is still many years away, which is unacceptable to us and the million commuters we are fighting for.

“To us, it is unclear when actual passenger rail devolution will begin along national government’s preferred timeframes. In Cape Town, we need devolution and working trains as soon as possible, given that the collapsed passenger rail system only transports around 2% of commuters in the city today.

“Our research also shows lower-income families in our city would save R932-million a year with working, efficient trains.”

Hill-Lewis says it is for these reasons the city is now briefing its lawyers to launch an intergovernmental dispute mediation process.

“Under Section 42 of the Intergovernmental Framework Relations Act, a mediation committee will need to be promptly convened to set the terms of the dispute.”

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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