The train stops here

Siyahlala informal settlement in Langa. PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

Siyahlala informal settlement in Langa. PHOTO: UNATHI OBOSE

Siyahlala shack dwellers in Langa have vowed to stay put until an alternative residential area is given to them.

The remarks follow a visit by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to the area on Friday 13 May.

During the visit, Mbalula promised to relocate the residents to another area in November.

The community has been a problem for Mbalula since efforts began to reinstate the rail transport in the central line.

The community currently occupies a section of the railway track in Langa, hindering efforts to reintroduce the service.

They moved onto the tracks in 2017.

Community leader Mxoleleni Ngutyana said they are patiently waiting to see if the minister will fulfil his promise.

He claimed that earlier this year officials from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) also promised to relocate them in July.

“We don’t know what happened to Prasa (promises) because we heard Mbalula telling us that we will be relocated soon. But he didn’t tell us where they are going to move us to,” said Ngutyana.

According to him, Mbalula has promised to meet with the community after two weeks.

However, he was less optimistic about Mbalula’s revisit.

“If they don’t relocate us there is no train that is going to operate here. Nothing will work. It’s almost six years now we are staying here without water and toilets,” he said.

Residents answer the call of nature at nearby bushes.

Mbalula stated that Prasa obtained a court order to relocate the residents.

The Western Cape High Court gave Prasa until July to relocate the people, said Mbalula.

He said the return to service of the central line will be undertaken in two phases.

Phase one entails restoring services on the Cape Town to Bellville (via Sarepta), Langa to Pinelands and Langa to Nyanga segments.

“We anticipate the completion of rehabilitation works and resumption of services by the end of July 2022 for this phase. Services in the Cape Town to Langa via Mutual are currently operational while Cape Town to Langa via Pinelands is 90% ready for recovery. We must also appreciate that the Langa to Bellville via Sarepta is currently affected by illegal occupation on the line and extensive infrastructure damage,” he said.

He added that work is also underway to recover the services between Langa and Nyanga as well as Cape Town to Nyanga as part of Phase one.

Mbalula said Phase two entails recovery of the Nyanga to Chris Hani segment as well as Nyanga to Kapteinsklip.

“These segments will take longer to recover due to the extent of the damage on the infrastructure. We anticipate to complete this recovery and resume services by December (this year).

“The work being undertaken to recover the central line consists of seven different restoration projects namely the construction of a security wall in strategic high-risk areas, re-signalling project, station rehabilitation, rehabilitation of substations, rehabilitation of overhead lines, rehabilitation of rail tracks and relocation of informal dwellers,” he explained.

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