On the train with Mvume Dandala
Dr Mvume Dandala, the Congress of the People’s presidential candidate, failed to elicit much excitement when he caught the train from Pretoria to Johannesburg on Wednesday morning.
By contrast, his African National Congress counterpart, Jacob Zuma, was mobbed when he visited the Johannesburg station recently.
Dandala did however get commuters talking about the problems they faced every day.
The Mail & Guardian joined Dandala on the train and and learned some of what train commuters go through to get to work.
The commuters complained that trains were often late and there was a lack of security.
On Wednesday morning the train for Johannesburg was scheduled to leave Pretoria at 6.20am but only left the station at 6.45am.
‘There is an urgent need for improvement of the infrastructure,” commuter Omega Yula told Dandala, after complaining that traffic lights were often not functioning in the morning.
‘You sound sincere, I hope you win,” he said as Dandala moved on to talk to other commuters.
Dandala said while he believed that more roads should be built and improved, he said many poor people relied on trains for transport and that the government should concentrate on making them more commuter friendly.
‘There should be more trains that run efficiently and more attention should be put on improving conditions on trains,” he said. But he conceded that increasing the number of trains without upgrading the support structures would not benefit commuters.
According to Sipho Sibanyoni, a regular train commuter from Atteridgeville, travellers were often robbed because there was no visible security on trains.
He said some commuters had lost their jobs because their employers were tired of hearing the ‘train excuse” every time they were late for work.
‘We’ve been complaining, burning the trains, but nothing has changed for the better. We know that nothing is going to happen, it has always been the case.” said Sibanyoni.
Dandala told commuters that Cope was not the kind of party to that would disappear after the elections if it did not win.
‘If we’re not in government we will hold whoever is in government accountable,” he said.
Moving from one coach to the other, Dandala elicited mixed reactions. Some commuters, clearly irritated by his presence, did not respond when he greeted them, while others expressed their support for the ANC breakaway group.
‘We’re coping, we’re coping,” cheered a group of young men as Dandala walked into their coach.
Another commuter, Dineo Mnguni, said it sometimes took over two hours to get to work in Kempton Park. Mnguni—who works in a bank—said she preferred to leave her car at home and use a train to avoid the congestion on the roads.
‘I think Dandala stands a chance of increasing his votes by creating time to talk to passengers. Politicians do not make time to hear us out,” she said.