15 October 2020
PRETORIA – Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane announced on Thursday that she will probe allegations of undue delay in the implementation of the Moloto Rail Corridor Development Project.
“The project was to have seen the construction of a new railway line from Limpopo, through Mpumalanga into Gauteng along the accident-prone Moloto road, which has over the years claimed dozens of lives and left many injured. It was meant to address the challenges of ‘safety, efficiency, reliability, affordability and overall integration with other public transport services’,” said Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe.
He said earlier this month, Mkhwebane received a memorandum of demands from a group calling itself the Moloto Corridor Concerned Residents (MCCR).
“The MCCR requested an investigation into the alleged undue delay, complaining that several feasibility studies have been undertaken at a huge cost to the taxpayer and yet no movement has to date been recorded on the project. In addition to the studies, several international benchmarking exercises were allegedly undertaken and a Memorandum of Understanding was entered into by the South African government and its Chinese counterpart in preparation for the rollout of the project,” said Segalwe.
“The [MCCR] group further alleged that the government made numerous promises regarding the development and finalisation of the project from as far back as 1996. Some of the commitments were allegedly made during government’s Siyahlola Campaign, community izimbizo, stakeholder forums, parliamentary proceedings, State of the Nation Addresses, State of the Province Addresses and in Budget Speeches.”
Segalwe said there has also been a complaint that the government overlooked the taxi industry and pumped resources into bus services through an alleged evergreen subsidy of PUTCO bus company. The MCCR requested the Public Protector to investigate if any officials were benefiting improperly from this subsidy.
“Also in the memorandum was an allegation that members of the MCCR set up camp at the Union Buildings, waiting for the President’s [Cyril Ramaphosa] response to their list of demands, which they allegedly delivered to the Presidency on Friday, September 11, 2020. They alleged that, as at October 01, 2020, they were yet to receive a response,” he said.
Earlier this month, Mkhwebane chaired an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) session, which sought to resolve the impasse between the MCCR and the South African government. The plan was for the parties to sign a settlement agreement with timelines on when some of the sticking points were to be resolved.
“Although the Presidency, the department of transport, the Mpumalanga Office of the Premier, the Chairperson of the [parliamentary] portfolio committee on transport, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, several affected municipalities, only the latter three parties attended,” said Segalwe.
The treacherous Moloto Road stretches 160km and connects Gauteng with Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Numerous people have died on the road over decades, with the government promising to construct a railway as an alternative to the road.
The Moloto Road is reportedly used by about 60000 people daily, most of whom work in Pretoria.