Cape Town’s mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has confirmed that the City will declare a formal intergovernmental dispute with national government.

His office has instructed lawyers to prepare papers over the issue of rail devolution.

The municipality wants to take over control of Metrorail in the Cape.

The idea of letting municipalities do so, has been part of government policy since at least 1996.

Devolution is again explicitly mentioned in a white paper approved by cabinet in March 2022.

But Hill-Lewis says this hasn’t resulted in any activity the City is aware of:

“The City of Cape Town has tried every constructive and proactive means possible to work with two successive ministers of Transport and the President to drive the devolution of passenger rail from the national government to the local sphere. But despite this policy decision, there’s been little to no progress of any sort to make it happen”.

In a one-month period, the City heard two quite different stories.

Transport Minister, Sindisiwe Chikunga, told journalists that no plans are currently in place to devolve rail, and the Director-General of her department told an international rail conference that the plans were well on track.

The mayor set a deadline for the President to set up a joint working committee to lead the project.

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramapohosa responded to several questions in Parliament about the issue.

But Hill-Lewis says it’s still no clearer when actual passenger rail devolution might begin:

” Following his comments in Parliament that there is progress behind the scenes, which we simply do not see, we will be left with no other option to pursue the intergovernmental dispute process. Because we are determined that the trains must be managed locally so that we can get them to work reliably, affordably and safely for residents”.