The majority of metro train stations in Gauteng do not have functioning electricity, a situation that has left many townships without the cheap mode of transport.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula revealed in a written Parliamentary reply that 142 train stations in Gauteng do not have power.
Only 90 of the stations in the province have functioning electricity. Gauteng, the country’s economic hub, has 232 stations stretching from Randfontein to Soshanguve and Vereeniging to Katlehong.
The data Mbalula supplied in response to questions asked by the DA’s Thamsanqa Mabhena meant 53% of the stations in Gauteng have no power.
Among the four provinces with Metrorail trains, Gauteng led the pack in terms of stations without power.
Only 10 out of 102 stations in KwaZulu-Natal were without functioning electricity. In the Western Cape, there were just 15 out of 124, and seven of the Eastern Cape’s train stations were without power.
Passenger Rail Agency of SA said the issue had worsened during the lockdown, as criminals stole the overhead cables.
“The station electrical functionality has been negatively impacted by theft and vandalism incidents which escalated during the national lockdown period,” said Prasa spokesperson Makhosini Mgitywa.
Activist group United Commuter Voice (UCV) said the electricity debacle was the cause of trains no longer operating in many communities. Only Mamelodi and Tembisa had trains.
Paul Soto, UCV Gauteng chairperson, said his assessment was that it was more than just 53% of the province’s stations that had no electricity.
“The whole of Gauteng has been vandalised during the lockdown. Cables and transformers have been stolen,” said Soto.
“I was at Germiston station. It’s been stripped, but there are police stationed there. It’s the same in other stations like Naledi. I don’t know why the rail police are not winning in protecting property at train stations,” Soto said.
Before the lockdown, UCV blamed Prasa for increased cable theft at stations. It linked the increasing vandalism to Prasa’s decision to remove contracted security companies in October last year.
Prasa started a recruitment drive of 3 100 security guards in July.
“Employing our own security personnel will give us greater control of the protection of our network and assets,” Prasa administrator Bongisizwe Mpondo said on announcing the drive.
UCV was concerned that those arrested for cable theft were often slapped with charges carrying light sentences.
“They are charged as if they had done petty crimes,” said Soto.