Families living along the railway line in Philippi in Cape Town are to be moved in the next two weeks.
At a hearing on Wednesday of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), MPs were told that about 800 shacks in Stock Road, Philippi, would be temporarily moved 10 metres from the railway line to allow trains to run on the Central line while a permanent solution is found.
The Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) promised in July that the Central Line, which stopped running in 2019, would be fully operational before the end of March next year.
The Scopa hearing was marked by exchanges between Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi and Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, prompting committee chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa to rebuke them. “Should I separate the two of you because of your side comments?” he asked.
Kubayi blamed the City for the delay in relocating the families living in Langa, Philippi and Khayelitsha. “As a minister, for me to function I need them to cooperate,” she said.
Public Works and Infrastructure minister Sihle Zikalala also took issue with the City, accusing it of not prioritising poor communities.
“And I must emphasise at this point that it is not only the Minister of Human Settlements who has declared a dispute with the municipality. Government has taken a decision that when municipalities are not implementing their mandate and not cooperating with the national department, we will have to intervene and take over irrespective of where is that municipality.”
Hill-Lewis told GroundUp that Prasa had to take responsibility for not having protected its land. “If you don’t protect your assets, you don’t protect your land, you have to take responsibility for the consequences.”
But he said the City was fully in support of the plan, dubbed “Operation Bhekela” to move residents a short distance, while keeping them on the rail reserve so that the trains could run, as a temporary solution. “At least people can use trains again. So we are in full support and we are ready to service those residents as we are already doing.”
Hlengwa said the committee would meet again on 20 September and would expect updates. He said it would be a tragedy to have to “babysit such big departments and the municipality”.
“Please implement your protocol,” Hlengwa told the ministers and the mayor.
© 2023 GroundUp. This article was first published here.