Zuma seeks truth on service delivery

President Jacob Zuma sought some truth on service delivery on Thursday by taking public transport from Pretoria to Soweto in Gauteng's rush hour.

Upon his arrival in Soweto, he told residents that reports the government received on service delivery could not always be trusted.

"Writing a report is easy. You can send someone to write for you a report and they tell you that all is well. We have now come to check if what we have been told is true."

Zuma was speaking at a community meeting in Soweto, accompanied by Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Transport Minister Ben Martins, and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

"We have come today to hear what the communities feel. There are national ministers here, the premier and your councillors. You should always get the chance to [speak to] government and express your grievances," Zuma said, speaking in Zulu.

"I have heard there are challenges around the provision of water. I could not leave the minister responsible for water (Edna Molewa) when I came to meet you. Whatever questions you have, she will answer."

At the conclusion of his initial speech, Zuma asked residents to tell him about their grievances.

Most spoke of biting poverty, a lack of basic services, crime and corruption.

"We are being abused by young people who abuse drugs in our communities. Imagine an old woman being robbed of her government grant pension. How do you expect us to survive?" asked one elderly woman.

Other speakers raised complaints about police brutality when dealing with the citizens.

"Mr President, we applaud you for dismissing (General) Bheki Cele. Our humble plea is that you please fire all of his followers. Bheki Cele's boys must go now," said a youth.

The high level tour on Thursday, dubbed "The President's Monitoring Visit 2012" was organised to give the president a personal taste of public transport in Gauteng during rush hour.

It started off with Zuma arriving at about 7am at Pretoria's main Bosman train station, and buying his ticket, to take a Metrorail train ride.

On the train, commuters spoke emotionally about the "poor" train service.

"We are struggling, president. The trains are always overloaded like this -- this is how we survive," said one commuter.

In Kempton Park, Zuma boarded the high speed Gautrain to Sandton.

The president said public transport systems in the country had to change.

"Commuters were complaining. I have been told that the trains are not reliable, there is no security and at times they (the trains) just stop in the middle of nowhere. Workers are struggling to get to work, that is not good for the economy," he told reporters.

"I am more convinced now that we need faster and [more] secure trains." He said problems at the passenger train service Metrorail were detrimental to South Africa's economic growth and development.

He told reporters on the tour that he had experienced first-hand what thousands of commuters endure daily.

"I have experienced [it] for myself. I have spoken to the workers on the Metrorail trains. They have complained largely about the train service," he said.

"When I used the Gautrain it was a different experience altogether -- [it is] efficient, quick and makes people certain about their business. This is the kind of development South Africa needs, though some were criticising for the (Gautrain) development".

From Sandton the delegation headed for Park Station in Johannesburg.

The president arrived to wild celebrations and cheering at South Africa's main public transport hub.

Zuma walked around the station complex, greeting and waving as people jostled to catch a glimpse of him.

He then proceeded to the adjacent Wanderers Street taxi rank, where he spoke to several taxi drivers and passengers.

Many passengers complained about the rising costs of public transport. Most passengers appealed to the president to intervene and arrest the run-away transport costs.

At the taxi platform for mini-buses heading to Nkandla (Zuma's hometown) some commuters offered the president a choice seat to travel next to them.

But Zuma led his entourage to the Rea Vaya bus system, where he bought his ticket to Soweto. The delegates arrived in Soweto after 11am.

From midday Zuma addressed multitudes of residents who had packed the Dlamini Multi-Purpose Centre in Soweto.