The railway line at Langa, Cape Town. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
The railway line at Langa, Cape Town. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

My wife and I had the good fortune while holidaying in Cape Town recently to take a walk along Main Road from Fish Hoek to Glencairn. Not very far, I admit, but long enough to admire one of the best views anywhere along our vast coastline.

A light south-easter was blowing, just enough to ruffle the wave tops as they rolled into False Bay, the sea a gorgeous turquoise. A glorious sight to behold.

The point of my story is that between Main Road and this beautiful sea runs a railway line. In fact, it hugs the coast all the way from Muizenberg to Glencairn, offering blissfully scenic views to passengers.

But there are no trains and no passengers. The line is covered in beach sand, weeds and bushes. The stations are unkempt and covered in graffiti. Plastic bags and empty cans litter the tracks. Where are the trains, to carry locals to and from work, to carry holiday-makers and wealthy tourists (when allowed in)?

The City of Cape Town applied years ago to the government to take over the running of Metrorail in the city, which had been run into the ground by the ANC. But then-transport minister Blade Nzimande told the DA-led city its application was nothing more than “political opportunism” and an attempt to “embarrass” the ANC-led national government.

I know this because I wrote to Nzimande at the time, and I will repeat what I said to him: The ANC need not fear being embarrassed by the DA. It has rained acute embarrassment on itself several times a day, every day, since 1994. It has succeeded not only in stonewalling the cheeky “opportunism” of the city but also in reducing a very badly managed train service to one that no longer exists — at least on this line.

The same applies to Cape Town’s years-long attempt to get off the grid and provide its own power. Denied because the grid is run by the government because it doesn't want to be embarrassed by the DA, even if the power supply is intermittent or non-existent — just like the train service.

John Perry, Hartbeespoort

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