Despite the South African government declaring the month of October as transport month, public transport in South Africa is still a big problem. October has come and gone but commuters in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town are frustrated with public transport.
For many people who rely on trains, buses or minibus taxis to go to and from work, public transport is dysfunctional.
Working class people rely heavily on public transport but it lets them down time and again. The main problems are reliability, safety and affordability.
Taxi fares in Cape Town have increased for the past three years. Many people complain about the behaviour of taxi drivers, the way they would speed, shout at them or even blast their music so loud. Women like Noxy Jondongwana feel helpless when they voice complaints.
“The taxi operators are by far the worst. I have taken a train and bus before, never have i seen anything like a taxi driver. They have absolutely no respect for the people. They don’t respect the rules of the road, you find them changing lanes at high speed like they are not carrying lives with them in the taxi. Complaining doesn’t help much either so one just hopes for the best.
“Also, the fare… taxis are quite expensive, I spend almost R200 a week on transport alone to and from work. I don’t know how they calculate their tariffs but its beyond us,” she said. Noxy takes her taxi from Site C taxi rank in Khayelitsha every morning before 7AM to be at work before 8AM in Wynberg.
Masixole Danke who uses the bus also voiced some complaints about it. “I take my bus not far from my house, the problem mainly with the bus is that sometimes it doesn’t come at all if not late. With the bus there is no one to inform you like they sometimes do with trains so you just stand at the bus stop and hope for the best. When the bus is late then you can be sure it would be overloaded because sometimes the driver doesn’t count the number of passengers standing so this puts everybody at risk,” said Masixole.
The addition of the MyCity bus in Khayelitsha was meant to boost public transport but, although people have voiced out their appreciation for this service, they maintain that the fare is steep. “I don’t know how much it (MyCity bus) costs but, from what I heard it costs an arm and a leg so I cannot afford it. Over the past two or three years I have seen the price for a ticket rise tremendously but it’s still better than that of taxis,” he continued.
Public Transport Voice is a NGO based in Khayelitsha working on improving public transport. Zingisani Nkanjeni, a media official for this organisation said that: “We help by conscientising communities through community education workshops and mobilizing commuters and making sure that service providers do account to commuters and communities.
“We have engaged with different taxi associations to raise the issues (tariff hikes, rude behaviour of taxi drivers etc) and next year we will embark on an education program with taxi bosses and taxi drivers. One of the things we picked up is that the business of the taxi industry has been informal for too long and we believe that if government can intervene some problems can be solved and addressed.”
The organisation feels that the fees for MyCity buses are too expensive for poor people. Khayelitsha is one of the poorest townships of Cape Town with the majority of people relying on public transport.
Nkanjeni says that they hold regular community meetings with service providers to address these problems in public transport. Trains, as far as the public is concerned cause the biggest headache for them. Rail commuter, Unathi Doyi who has to travel from Khayelitsha to Bontheuwel station to work at Epping says that if he had a choice he would change to use another mode of transport but the train is still cheaper than other means.
“I have accepted that trains are the way they are. Delays, cancellations and midway stops are part and parcel of these trains. Even my manager knows there is nothing I can do,” he said.
“Sometimes I have to take a taxi to work because of a cancellation. What irks me most about the trains is when they don’t even bother to tell us what the problem is. The train just stops in the middle of nowhere for an hour or more, people then start to jump off and walk to work. Men especially do this and leave old women who can’t walk behind, this is when thugs take advantage,” continued Doyi.
For too long people have been complaining about the lack of security on the trains. “We have highlighted this matter and they promised that they will deploy more security and police.
“We had three meetings with Metrorail management in the Western Cape addressing the issues of safety, reliability, cancellations, and many other issues. We also agreed with Metrorail on plans that will solve these problems,” said Nkanjeni.