Editorial

Hellish train ride shows how far off track we are

10 February 2019 - 00:00 By SUNDAY TIMES


Jobs were mentioned 33 times in the state of the nation address, public transport once. Even that single reference came in the form of a boast about investment. What President Cyril Ramaphosa failed to acknowledge was that without reliable, safe, affordable public transport, dreams of creating employment are illusory.
If the people most in need of jobs - the same individuals who 25 years after the end of apartheid are still living the reality of its spatial cruelty - cannot travel to and from potential workplaces, all the talk about raising them out of poverty will be vacuous waffle.
These sentiments are thrown into stark relief by our investigation today into the train fires that have left Cape Town's commuter railways all but crippled. Astonishingly, the perpetrators have gone unpunished. Less astonishingly, in light of what we continue to learn about the moral disintegration of national governance over the past decade, the dominant theory that emerges about the train sabotage is that it's an inside job. Worse, the perpetrators are being protected for reasons of political expediency.
The central line from Cape Town to Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain comes from the same school of political thought that countenances pit toilets at schools, rivers full of sewage and unbridled violent crime - but keeps the elite in the lap of luxury, isolated from the quotidian travails of the proletariat.
As we report today, a journey on the central line takes passengers from the sophistication of one of Africa's most technologically advanced cities straight into an apocalyptic parallel universe. The arson attacks that have destroyed more than 200 train carriages in the past five years are at least logical if they are understood as part of a twisted strategy to assert political or economic dominance. But the catastrophic state of the railway through the Cape Flats is beyond comprehension in the context of the governing party's repeated claims that it empathises with the poor.
The central line is more proof that the ANC has crashed and burnt in the past 10 years. In many respects, Ramaphosa was kicking for touch in his speech this week. Next time he steps up to the podium, he'll need a radical tactical transformation.

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