Station plan being ‘derailed’

SOYISO MALITI
SA National Civics Organisation (SANCO) members have accused Bloekombos taxi bosses of using death threats to derail plans for a Metrorail station in the area.

It claims Siseko Mbandezi, the councillor who defected from the ANC to the DA; ANC Ward 101 councillor Luyanda Mbele and several other community leaders who have supported the station proposal had all been cowed by taxi bosses’ threats.

In a letter to the Northern News, the Sanco members wrote, “We, the people of Bloekombos, are really in need of the train station in Bloekombos area, this has been a dream and a need for a very long time.”

While they begged not to be identified, saying they feared for their lives, one of them, Josef Ngubenkosi, said he was willing to go on record. Hiding behind nameless faces wouldn’t help empower Bloekombos, he said.

Mr Ngubenkosi believes three councillors, including the late Vuyiswa Mdluli, who had been part of the talks over the past four years between the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and the City had backed down, allowing the project to stall, after receiving death threats from taxi owners.

cn rk TrainStation: The SA National Civic Organisation claims taxi bosses have scuppered Bloekombos’s chances of getting a train station in the area.

He claimed that when he and other Sanco members had met with Ms Mdluli in 2011 she had told them she was scared because she had received several verbal death threats from taxi bosses. Several Sanco members, he said, had also been threatened. He surmises that Mr Mbandezi and Mr Mbele backed down from the project after they too received similar threats. However both Mr Mbandezi and Mr Mbele deny this.

“We have been left out (in the) cold by the councillors … and each and every councillor that comes, seems scared of taking the matter forward,” Mr Ngubenkosi said.

Kraaifontein police station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk wasn’t immediately able to confirm whether any complaints of intimidation had been laid against taxi owners in relation to the issue. However, Mr Ngubenkosi said the Sanco members who claimed to have been threatened had not pressed charges because they were too afraid to do so. He doesn’t know if Ms Mdluli ever pressed charges herself. She died earlier this year from an illness.

In their letter to the Northern News, the Sanco members said residents had to leave their homes as early as 4am to catch the first train to work from the Kraaifontein train station. And, according to Mr Ngubenkosi, they are often robbed along the way.

“The taxis, on the other hand, are playing government,” he said, accusing them of doing as they pleased to protect their business.

Mr Mbandezi has rubbished Sanco’s claimslabelling them as “gossip that is neither here nor there”. He denied being threatened by any taxi owner while involved with the project and said the City’s involvement had been limited to access roads. Primary responsibility for the project, he said, lay with Prasa.

Mr Mbele said he had not received any death threats from the taxi owners and, referring to Sanco’s claims that all councillors had been browbeaten, said it was worth noting he had only been the ward’s councillor since December last year. He said he had scheduled a meeting with taxi owners yesterday evening and would, among other transport issues in Bloekombos, discuss the train station with them.

Mr Mbele said the train station had been discussed “in passing” in Sub-council 7 meetings. He said he expected Prasa to involve all stakeholders, including taxi owners and residents of Bloekombos.

Mr Mbandezi said Prasa had tabled a report to the City about the train station development in 2012, but the rail service said it wasn’t a “top five” priority. In 2014, Prasa followed up with another report, saying they would go ahead with the train station, but clarified it “wouldn’t be built now”.

Mr Mbandezi said the taxi owners had also received the reports.

Bloekombos taxi rank chairman Nkwenkwendala Mayase denied any taxi driver or owner had made any threats to anyone involved in the process of procuring a train station for Bloekombos.

He said that when they had tried to discuss the project with Prasa and the City early this year, Prasa officials and Mr Mbele had told them the plans were going ahead.

Mr Mayase conceded the move would be detrimental to their business.

Hishaam Emeran, general manager for Prasa’s strategic network planning, confirmed that the project had been in the pipeline for quite some time.

On Monday, he said they had been busy with the detail design, which could take up to a year. Moreover, the project had yet to receive any funding.

In July last year, he told Northern News that Prasa had been “busy finalising the planning phase”, which included confirmation of rail alignment and station positions.

“This project is acknowledged by both Prasa and the City of Cape Town as a priority in terms of rail expansion for Cape Town.

“Once the planning phase is complete the necessary motivation will be prepared to secure the funding to proceed with detailed design,” he said at the time.