President Cyril Ramaphosa on the train from Mabopane, north of Pretoria, to Pretoria station on Monday March 18 2019. Picture: ANCJHB via Twitter
President Cyril Ramaphosa on the train from Mabopane, north of Pretoria, to Pretoria station on Monday March 18 2019. Picture: ANCJHB via Twitter

In a deeply ironic campaign moment, President Cyril Ramaphosa was stuck on a train between Mabopane and Pretoria on Monday — a 45-minute trip that took three hours.

It would have been funny if not for the fact that this is the reality for the many South Africans who have no option but to use a shoddy rail system to get to work and school every day. Less funny, too, was that it took the president finding himself on the receiving end of service delivery failure to promise that "heads would roll" if the problem was not fixed.

But the state of SA’s rail system should have come as no shock to Ramaphosa. As far back as 2015, former public protector Thuli Madonsela found widespread evidence of maladministration, improper conduct and nepotism at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA. And rail services have been interrupted for years by violent crime, industrial action and breakdowns.

But instead, Ramaphosa has focused almost exclusively on SAA and Eskom — with little payoff, it would seem. Taxpayers’ money is being thrown at these entities while SA’s commuters suffer.

That Ramaphosa’s failed train trip may result in some improvement in South Africans’ commuting experience is a good thing. That this may come about purely because it’s an election year is indicative of how seriously the ruling party takes its mandate to serve the people of SA.