Free rides for job seekers

Brett Herron.

The move by the City of Cape Town to subsidise bus rides to the tune of R6.6 million for unemployed people has been largely welcomed.

The decision was announced at mayor Patricia de Lille’s budget presentation for the City of Cape Town last month.

The free service is set to be rolled out by September and will be available during off-peak hours. Unemployed job-seekers will be able to get a myconnect card to travel on MyCiTi buses between 10am and 3.30pm.

During her budget speech, Ms De Lille said the initiative was aimed at promoting access to transport for job-seekers enabling them to access employment opportunities more easily.

“Many people are giving up looking for work because travel costs are a barrier.

“We want to implement this initiative to take away that obstacle of travel costs which sometimes prevents people from being able to access job opportunities.”

She said the City was still working out the exact mechanics of how the roll-out would work.

A Cape Town radio station reported Mayco member for transport Brett Herron saying one of the possible ways of implementing the project was to register job-seekers on a database and issue myconnect cards to those who had been registered or alternatively to have a specific period wherein job-seekers could make use of the free service.

Professor Edgar Pieterse, director of the African Centre for Cities, said at face value the move should be welcomed. However, he said, there needed to be a bigger debate on how the transport subsidies will work.

“Transport is one of the biggest barriers and mainly working class people use public transport.”

Professor Pieterse, who is running a year-long integration workshop project, said transport ends up being one of the biggest costs for people every month.

The move was also welcomed by the Reclaim the City campaign.

Julian Sendin, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said the transport matter was a positive step in the right direction but that it needed to be part of a bigger integration project from the City.

“Transport is one of the biggest costs for working class people who spend nearly 45 percent on it. And those are people lucky enough to have jobs.”

He said that affordable housing and transitional housing in the inner-city needed to form part of the budget.

“We can’t have a situation where if someone is evicted from Woodstock or Salt River they end up in Wolwerivier. This creates inter-generational poverty. The City also needs to stop rolling out the red carpet for private developers,” he added.

Meanwhile Xolani Sotashe, the ANC’s chief whip in the City of Cape Town, said they welcomed the move – with scepticism.

They questioned how the system would be managed.

“The ANC welcome this initiative but strongly questions how this will be sustained.

“It’s one thing to ferry people from the townships to come to the city and look for jobs.

“At the end of the day, however, people don’t get jobs. The City is not talking about the fundamental issue which is jobs.”

Mr Sotashe said they also wanted to see jobs created in the townships. He also added the budget as a whole wasn’t pro-poor as the City had suggested.