'We don't want railway line invaders': Macassar residents vow to oppose relocation of informal households

Cape Town suburb outraged at Prasa relocation plan

03 April 2024 - 13:49
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Shacks built along the (closed) railway line in Langa, Cape Town. File photo.
Shacks built along the (closed) railway line in Langa, Cape Town. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Residents of Macassar have vowed to oppose the planned relocation of thousands of families illegally occupying the central commuter railway line in Cape Town.

Community leaders say the neighbourhood is already plagued by service delivery challenges, including inadequate policing, and is ill-prepared to cope with the resettlement plan proposed by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

“I am infuriated by Prasa's blatant disregard for their promises,” community leader Waseemah Flaendorp said on Wednesday. “In 2022 they assured us they would prioritise engaging our community before moving forward with this land acquisition. Yet here we are, witnessing their unilateral actions without as much as a courtesy consultation.

“The people of ward 109 are seething with a sense of disrespect and neglect. We refuse to tolerate this flagrant betrayal. Prasa is about to face the fiercest opposition they have ever encountered. We are prepared to stand our ground and fight tooth and nail against this.”

Prasa has been battling to reclaim the central line since it was first disrupted by shack dwellers in 2019 and then invaded en masse during the Covid-19 lockdown. The commuter service has been unable to operate at full capacity since, resulting in severe disruption to urban transport.

The stalemate has prompted intervention from the City of Cape Town, which is lobbying to take over management of commuter rail services in the metro area. A central line relocation project steering committee has been set up to oversee the relocation process, which is still under way, with some areas reclaimed and others not.

The resettlement plan involves more than 5,000 households, many of them living in unauthorised structures at Langa, Philippi and Khayelitsha railway stations along the line.

Responding on Wednesday to queries about the Macassar plan, Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda said: “The central line relocation project steering committee leading the relocation will make an official comment on the matter in due course. Prasa is making steady progress in recovering the rest of the central line from Philippi to Chris Hani. Contractors are on site rehabilitating the rail infrastructure.”

Last month the central line relocation project management committee (PMC) detailed its relocation plan at a public meeting. A statement after the engagement made no mention of Macassar. The PMC said relocation would take place in two phases:

  • phase 1 involving about 1,245 households to be resettled around Langa station; and
  • phase 2 involving about 3,950 households in Nyanga, Philippi and Khayelitsha at an as yet undisclosed location which “is pending land acquisition and statutory procedures”.

A parcel of 8.7ha of land had been secured for the relocation of the households around Langa, said the PMC, which “reaffirmed its commitment to engaging closely with affected communities, addressing concerns raised in the meeting and providing regular updates on the relocation progress”.

“A fully operational central line will go a long way in connecting communities to socioeconomic opportunities. The PMC extends appreciation for the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders and looks forward to continued partnership with affected communities to ensure the railway line's operation aligns with community needs,” the statement said. 

Ward 109 councillor Peter Helfrich said residents were mobilising against the proposal after it was announced on TV recently and had started a new petition that had garnered 4,000 signatures.

“Plans are also under way for a lawful protest to express residents' discontent and vehement opposition to Prasa's proposed action,” he said.

“Let there be no misunderstanding: residents are eager for the central railway line operated by Prasa to resume service as this would greatly enhance the lives of our community members. What residents do not support is the relocation of the illegal occupants to Macassar.”


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