Pretoria - “Wa thinta ma train wa thinta impilo yethu” (You strike a train, you strike our well-being).
This is the stern warning by business owners and informal traders to anyone who attempts to vandalise the Mabopane rail corridor, which reopened on Monday. It had closed in 2019 and was recently refurbished.
The traders, who rely on the rail traffic to make a living, vowed to protect the corridor from vandals and criminals.
Mandla Mathibela, who has been running a cellphone repair shop just outside the Mabopane Station since three years before its closure, said many businesses closed down.
Mathibela said they got one or two customers a day, which made it impossible to survive, and his only saving grace was his regular customers.
“People were no longer coming here because there were no trains, and they were also worried about their safety, so we tried our best to keep things clean. They kept asking us when the trains would return, and now that they’re back, that hope has returned.
“We are not going to sit back and watch these trains being vandalised again because the simple truth is that they are our bread and butter, so we have to protect them at all costs."
Queen Nkuna said after running her tuckshop for 23 years, having to watch it close temporarily was hard, but customers kept showing up just to get what they could to get by.
Nkuna said she was hoping the reopening of the rail corridor would transform her trade from a profit of R40 to R100, to what it used to be when the trains were last running.
“We are pleading with our commuters to come back to the trains because most have been complaining for the longest time about how expensive using taxis was. From R60 for transport, they can go back to just R20, and that is a big saving.
“This time around, we are not taking this lying down and letting criminals ruin things for all of us. This time, we are going to fight. Normally, we say wa thinta bafazi (you strike a woman), but this time wa thinta ma trains wa thinta thina” (you strike trains, you strike us).
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said government spent more than R700 million in rehabilitating and upgrading the infrastructure on the Mabopane train corridor.
Mbalula had taken a train ride as part of the inspection. He said the station rehabilitation programme for 23 stations at a cost of R100m had begun.
Currently, Mabopane, Pretoria North, Mountain View, Hercules and the main Pretoria station are operational, the basic repairs done.