Travellers of ours sent us two articles from the Western media recently about two types of fire in South Africa: first the forest fires in George, on the Garden Route and then also the train fires in Cape Town. A bit of context always helps to fill in the blanks with a news report, so here's our take on the stories.
The reason why so many innocent victims get killed in forest fires is often because of insufficient housing or overcrowding where they live, meaning that they live illegally in national parks such as forests. Also, with dependency on open fires for cooking, people often stray into national parks for firewood and then get caught in the fires. Then there are those who volunteer to help combat the fires but aren’t trained or properly equipped and get overcome normally first by smoke and then get trapped. This kind of problem is only going to get worse until provincial government corruption gets stopped, which is in itself a mammoth task.
The deliberate arson of trains is not new, sadly. Ever since the World Cup made it possible for the City of Cape Town to invest in the excellent MyCiti buses, this problem has got worse. There are essentially four public transport networks in Cape Town: MyCity (run by the CIty), Golden Arrow (run by the province), the train netwok (run by PRASA, national) and minibus taxis (privately owned and run).
The article mentions the political reasons which are probably all true to a degree but to our mind the other big issue is that PRASA (which runs all trains nationally) is the only national supplier for transport in the Cape and as such is able to undercut the minibus taxi suppliers in terms of price. The taxi suppliers don't like competition and so have tried and failed to burn the MyCiti buses: the trains are a much easier target as they are poorly guarded.
The city has tried and failed to bring the minibus taxis into the mix of public transport in the Cape – ultimately anybody who lives near a MyCiti stop uses that system as it’s clean, safe and reliable as well as affordable. The taxi bosses all have underworld connections and really don’t like MyCiti, PRASA or anybody else who treads on ‘their’ turf.