The rail 'challenge' signals failed state

The ANC's new cliché is: Challenges. So, according to party secretary-general Ace Magashule, our neighbour Zimbabwe faces some "challenges". It's a country going down the toilet, is what most sensible people would call it. Now, our court jester Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula – attired in railway security policeman uniform in his Tweets – describes our passenger rail infrastructure as "a challenge". Most sensible people would call it a chaotic mess. However, Mbaks was on the money with his observation about why country's train tracks, railway cabling and station infrastructure have been pillaged at an eye-watering rate. It's because of the...
The ANC's new cliché is: Challenges.

So, according to party secretary-general Ace Magashule, our neighbour Zimbabwe faces some "challenges". It's a country going down the toilet, is what most sensible people would call it.

Now, our court jester Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula – attired in railway security policeman uniform in his Tweets – describes our passenger rail infrastructure as "a challenge". Most sensible people would call it a chaotic mess.

However, Mbaks was on the money with his observation about why country's train tracks, railway cabling and station infrastructure have been pillaged at an eye-watering rate. It's because of the ineptness of those running the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa.

Included in that near criminal dereliction of duty and incompetence was the failure to put in place a security system to replace that run by private security companies, most of whose contracts were cancelled in November last year after they were found to be irregular by the public protector and the auditor-general.

In the interim, the organised and well-equipped criminal gangs have been helping themselves – without any consequences. The pillaging accelerated during the lockdown, when no trains were running and stations were abandoned. It's going to cost R4 billion to repair the damage.

Now, though, Mbaks and his people have put together a security plan, which comes equipped with a whole raft of other clichés, ranging from "seamless integrated value chain" to a "holistic view of safety across modes"…

It is trite to observe that this action is tantamount to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted… but in SA, that stable door has also been stolen.

The image of a torn up railway track and stolen steel rails is a universal signal of one thing: a failed state.

Reversing that reality may well be beyond Mbaks.

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