Destruction of Prasa means worsening living standards for the working class

The article published by amaBhungane on 12 December 2022 should not surprise any South African. This is what has become of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and public institutions in which general bungling that includes gross neglect, inefficiency, and the use of the state for primitive accumulation by the ANC government has collapsed major SOEs.

Havoc has been wreaked at PRASA, Eskom is broken, Denel has been destroyed, Post Office is being buried, and is on its way to join SAA and Telkom i.e., being privatised. The list is endless.

In all these cases, the section of society that pays the ultimate price is the working class. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs, and families who lost breadwinners due to increased violence, road accidents and unemployment, are joining millions of other pauperised and impoverished households to celebrate Christmas in darkness and on empty stomachs.

In the case of PRASA, 80% workers who used to rely on trains are today forced to use unsafe, unreliable, and more expensive privately owned public transport. PRASA, which used to conduct 522 million passenger trips in 2011, had undertaken only 17 million in 2021, this means PRASA has lost billions of Rands in revenue today.

The 97% decline in passenger trips between 2011 and 2021 means most workers who previously relied on trains to and from work, and to commute between towns and townships, have switched to road transport. This is a nightmare in major cities like Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. It has resulted in traffic congestion never seen before, congestion inconvenient for work and school, and that sentences people to road deaths due to increased car and trucks accidents.

The amaBhungane revealed that unsatisfied bidders to the tender for “overhauling and maintenance” of the Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (PRASA) trains and infrastructure are challenging the tendering process. This review process, if successful, will halt the “maintenance and overhaul” process. The unfortunate result will be continued delay in fixing PRASA and restoring railway commuting.

The cancellation of the security contracts in 2019 that were awarded irregularly was correct, but PRASA management failed to ensure it found new security services to protect the rail infrastructure. Consequently, the rail infrastructure has been vandalised and systemically ripped by scrap metals syndicates, resulting in 323 train stations being damaged, 21 railway lines stopped, amongst others, due to being ripped, and 1100 signalling cables stolen.

Early this year, the Minister of Transport revealed that repairing this damaged and stolen infrastructure would cost over R4 billion. SAFTU suspect that the government leaders deliberately allow critical infrastructure to be destroyed so that they can issue new tenders for the benefit of their corruption networks.

These repair costs do not include the loss of revenue from commuter fares which have declined enormously.

A government responsible for such carnage does not deserve the citizens’ confidence. However, our main challenge is that our country only complains on social media but generally accept this abnormal situation. SAFTU calls on the working class to accept that power will concede nothing without a struggle. We need greater unity and determination to fight against the ANC-led government’s privatisation agenda, destruction and gross inefficiencies.

We must continue to demand that PRASA be urgently fixed to restore its traditional railway transporting lines and expand its reach to peripheral and rural towns. Our people require public transport system that is efficient, reliable, and cheaper. Public transport, like the provision of water, clean air, healthcare, education, energy, and safety, are too crucial functions to be handed over to the private sector to use for profit maximisation.

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