King Shaka Day celebrations put on hold again

The King Shaka Day celebrations which were scheduled to take place at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday have been postponed again following the suspension of train services by Metrorail in KwaZulu-Natal.

Train services were suspended indefinitely by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) this week after Metrorail vehicles were set alight in Umlazi by commuters angered by trains being late. Metrorail staff were also locked in a building at a station in Umlazi by the angry commuters.

The King Shaka Day celebrations were postponed on Friday following the death of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s son‚ Prince Butho‚ after a long illness on Thursday.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi said after consultations with the king‚ it was decided that the King Shaka Day celebrations should be postponed again as the suspension of train services would make it difficult for those who wanted to travel to Durban.

“As you are aware‚ last week a tragic loss in the royal family necessitated the postponement of our annual celebration of the founder of the Zulu nation. In order to give the royal family space to grieve‚ and out of respect‚ the celebrations were postponed to this weekend.

“However‚ we have been cognisant of an unfolding situation that threatened to negatively affect our success of these celebrations‚ from a logistical point of view. We have kept a close eye on the situation and have had to make a difficult discussion‚” said Buthelezi.

He said King Zwelithini had indicated that “we must be guided by the best interests of those who wish to celebrate our heritage. We cannot place an inordinate burden on them. At the moment it seems likely that there may be no train service on Saturday to enable transport to Durban.”

Buthelezi said a new date for the celebrations would now be October 7‚ at the same venue.

He said the postponement of King Shaka Day‚ which has been celebrated for 46 years‚ was unprecedented.

“We trust that this will allow time for the Department of Transport to successfully engage with Prasa to resolve the present impasse. We understand the concern for the safety of staff as well as commuters‚ following incidents of arson last Friday. However‚ we are also deeply concerned about the impact of this suspension of services on the millions of commuters who rely on trains to reach their places of work‚” said Buthelezi.

The United National Transport Union said this week that it would approach the courts to force Prasa and the government to protect employees and commuters.

Prasa regional spokesperson Zama Nomnganga said they were working on a plan to reinstate services but the decision to suspend services was indefinite to ensure the safety of staff and commuters.

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