Cape Town wants new Transport Minister to fast-track rail devolution

24th March 2023 By: Irma Venter - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says he has written to new Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, asking her to fast-track rail devolution “as a top priority”.

Chikunga’s appointment follows a Cabinet reshuffle, with former Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula now ANC secretary-general.

“Passenger rail has collapsed in Cape Town, and is now servicing just 2% of commuters daily, when it should be the backbone of an affordable, reliable and safe transport system,” says Hill-Lewis.

“Capetonians need to know where the new Transport Minister stands on the delay in national government’s devolution strategy with no definite deadline, and recent anti-devolution statements by the ANC.”

Approved by Cabinet in May last year, the national White Paper on Rail Policy states that passenger rail may be devolved to local governments. Cape Town has noted that it is eager to take over control of Metrorail operations in the city.

Hill-Lewis says the City of Cape Town has, to date, also received no response from national government on its ongoing requests to devolve more policing powers to the metro’s municipal law enforcement.

“Devolving more policing powers to well-trained municipal law enforcement officers is an immediate way to help SAPS (South African Police Service) fight crime, given that 71% of Cape police stations are under-resourced.

“Our officers are already out there taking guns and drugs off the streets daily, but with more policing powers they can build prosecution-ready case dockets and gain convictions, bringing lasting change for residents living in daily fear of violent crime.

“We believe there is both a constitutional case and a human case to devolve more policing powers to local government,” says Hill-Lewis.

“The Justice Minister simply needs to issue a declaration – as already done in 2018 – conferring more policing powers to municipal law enforcement under the Criminal Procedure Act. This can be followed up with an amendment to the SAPS Act.”

Tourism Changes
Meanwhile, City of Cape Town Economic Growth MMC James Vos says that he has approached new Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille to open up South Africa’s air transport market.

“In my communication, I highlighted the campaign spearheaded by the City of Cape Town to enact a remote worker visa – an issue that I brought to the attention of Minister De Lille’s predecessor, Lindiwe Sisulu.

“Cape Town is already a highly favoured location for digital nomads.

“Enabling the visa, with specific parameters, would simply require national government to make provisions in the Immigration Act for a period longer than three months.

“Other countries have had great success with this type of visa and it would give South Africa greater appeal to a far broader category of tourists.”

“Our research shows that a special visa would help attract more international visitors,” says Vos.

He adds that the City of Cape Town also wants De Lille to put pressure on the national Department of Transport to open up the country’s air transport market.

“I pointed out that, where implemented, it has resulted in increased utilisation of airspace, more competitive fares and more choices for travellers.

“It is through tourism that we can kick our economy into high gear.

“A recent report showed that South Africa’s tourism sector is forecast to grow at an average rate of 7.6% annually over the next decade and, by 2032, the sectoral contribution to the gross domestic product could create over 800 000 jobs.”