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'There is just zero engagement': City of Cape Town won't back down in fight for railway control

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis

3rd October 2023

By: News24Wire

  

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The City of Cape will not back down from its fight with the national government to devolve railways to capable metros.

So says Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, who spoke to journalists shortly after addressing stakeholders at the Urban Mobility Summit, which kicked off on Tuesday at DHL Stadium. 

The summit, which is set down for two days, is expected to cover challenges that are of local and national public concern and interest, including the devolution of the passenger rail function to the City, the formalisation of the minibus taxi industry, and the impact of extortion, intimidation and crime on the City's efforts to deliver construction projects in hotspot areas in particular. 

The mayor said the City was still in the process of lodging an intergovernmental dispute over the rail issue.

"The process is still ongoing. We expect to lodge the dispute imminently. The fact of the matter is that we have not received any response about devolution from the national government. We have, however, received feedback regarding a service-level agreement with Prasa but no further input about devolution," he said. 

The City has been pushing to take over the management of rail services and wants the president to confirm whether the Cabinet-approved White Paper on National Rail Policy, aimed at devolving rail to capable metros, still stands.

"We cannot take any government department to court without following the intergovernmental dispute processes. The law makes that clear. We have to start now with the dispute mechanism, and if that does not work and there is no cooperation, then we will have to take the legal route," he said. 

"We have written countless letters to the president, to various ministers of transport, and there is just zero engagement."

During a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa launched a scathing attack on the City, saying that talk of devolving powers from the national government were "secessionist".

Ramaphosa said the White Paper on National Rail Policy, approved in March last year, specified certain implementations, priorities and time frames in the devolution of passenger rail. 

"There are certain short-term objectives to be achieved by 2024. The development of a devolution strategy is one of the short-term interventions which is to be completed by 2024," he said.

Ramaphosa added that those who called for devolution essentially wanted to be "secessionist". 

"Those who call for this devolution are essentially saying, we want to be separate, we want to be secessionist, we want to be completely different."

Edited by News24Wire

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