Cape Town and the national government butt heads over rail takeover

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Johnathan Paoli

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that the city’s lawyers are preparing legal proceedings to force the national government to hand over its rail network responsibilities to the country’s metros.

Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to broad consultations taking place ‘behind the scenes’ with metros about the rail takeover strategy.

However, the DA mayor refuted this, saying the city has been attempting to secure a meeting with the national government concerning the rail network devolution throughout the year but to no avail.

The mayor said that the city is preparing to initiate an intergovernmental dispute against the national government over the inadequate communication between the two spheres of the state.

Hill-Lewis said that he was heartened at the president’s confirmation of the cabinet decision in 2022 regarding the devolution, but that he was of the opinion that the president was unaware of what was actually happening.

The city had earlier requested the president to form a joint working committee to chart the way towards the devolution and welcomed a commitment by the national Transport Department’s director-general towards the devolution of the passenger rail service earlier this year in June.

At a question and answer session with members of the National Assembly earlier this week President Ramaphosa said that the calls by the DA for the devolution of transport could be considered secessionist.

“Those who call for this type of devolution are essentially saying we want to be separate; we want to be secessionist, we want to be completely different,” Ramaphosa said.

The president added that the City of Cape Town should remember that it cannot act independently of the national laws governing the country.

Despite this, the president has however confirmed the national government’s intention to implement the White Paper on national railway policy.

Hill-Lewis said the city projected that getting trains operational again would sustain over 50 000 jobs and add R11 billion to the local economy each year.

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