Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has condemned the vandalism of commuter rail infrastructure.
This follows two train sets that were set alight at Cape Town station on Thursday morning. This has resulted in the gutting of 18 coaches with the damage estimated at R61 million.
“The state of lawlessness in our commuter rail environment must be uprooted. We will use every resource at our disposal to find these criminals and ensure that they face the full might of the law. It is time our social partners stepped to the plate and work with government and law enforcement authorities in ensuring that public assets are protected,” the Minister said.
Addressing members of the media at the Cape Town station, he said over the last five years, 213 coaches were lost due to arson at a cost of R643 million.
“We are outraged at this deliberate act of criminality that is clearly calculated to paralyse the Metrorail service in Cape Town.
“Over time, Metrorail has been a target of criminal acts which have had a devastating effect on the service. These acts have far reaching implications for the economy and the commuters who rely on our trains to get to work every day,” he said.
The Minister said in recent weeks, stations and other rail infrastructure were vandalized and destroyed and were assets stolen.
He said cable theft have become a daily phenomenon that cripples the country’s signalling system resulting in long delays.
“We will never defeat this cancer of lawlessness until such time communities declare that criminal conduct will not be perpetuated in their name. When a train is cancelled due to shortage of trains as a result of criminal conduct, somebody’s livelihood is affected.
“The cries of workers who lose their jobs due to chronic late-coming as a result of trains that delay must spur all of us into action. If we throw our hands up in the air in exasperations, the criminals would have won,” the Minister said.
Mbalula said some of these acts of criminality are staged in order to force Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) hand to continue with an arrangement that was not only found irregular by the Auditor-General and the Public Protector, but one that has exposed PRASA to inside jobs.
“We are under no illusion that the recent cancellation of security contracts by PRASA is a contributing element to the heightened lawlessness.
“In the current climate where society expects us to visibly demonstrate our commitment to uprooting corruption, malfeasance, state capture, it was critical for PRASA to regularise procurement that continues to perpetuate irregular expenditure, and the security contracts were one such area,” the Minister said.
Mbalula said for many years, concerns had been raised by the security cluster about the unmitigated risks brought about by the proliferation of security contracts in the PRASA environment.
“It is on that basis that we have committed that PRASA needs to strengthen its internal security capacity by directly employing personnel to protect its assets and environment, working closely with the Rapid Rail Police. Our commitment to create jobs through the in-sourcing of this service is unshakeable,” the Minister said.
He called on organs of civil society, which include organisations like United Commuters’ Voice and #Unite Behind and many others, to champion the campaign against criminality in the rail sector.
“The duty to improve our commuter rail service is a collective one that requires a genuine social compact. If we work together, we will grow South Africa to unprecedented levels,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za