‘Sabotaged’ tracks under repair

2010-05-13 00:00

TRANSNET engineers worked swiftly to repair the “sabotaged” train tracks that led to the derailment of a train transporting fuel at Shallcross, south of Durban, yesterday.

Three locomotives and five tan­kers derailed at 3 am, and the ensuing fuel spill sparked environmental concerns.

The sabotage, according to Trans­net, is of the worst acts of mayhem by protesters linked to the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) national strike that began on Monday. About 100 metres of rail track were loosened.

This incident follows the arrest of 13 Transnet employees who were charged with public violence, assault and intimidation during a march in the Durban city centre.

Police said evidence suggests the perpetrators had “inside knowledge” of the tracks and equipment needed to tamper with the tracks.

Transnet’s group executive for human resources, Pradeep Maharaj, said the derailment is a “clear act of sabotage” as it had been well planned and executed by people who knew the train industry.

A team was dispatched to repair and clean the affected area.

In the meantime, trains are using alternative routes to travel between Durban and Gauteng, as lines in both directions had to be closed.

Maharaj said that it is fortunate no one was injured during the incident.

“Though we have over 12 000 km of tracks, we will take every practical measure to safeguard our tracks and trains,” he said.

He said Transnet is working closely with police and will lay criminal charges.

Maharaj said rumours of a looming fuel shortage in Durban, due to the derailment, are not true.

The train was taking fuel to Gauteng.

“There is no need to panic. There won’t be a petrol shortage,” he ad­ded.

Transnet spokesperson John Dludlu said acts of violence, vanda­lism and intimidation are deeply worrying because they show that either the union’s leaders cannot control their members or are condoning such acts.

“We have stepped up our security plans at our operations. We will spare no effort in ensuring the safety and security of our colleagues, assets and customers’ cargo,” he said.

The Labour Court on Tuesday granted Transnet an order with costs interdicting Satawu from unlawfully interfering with the business or activities of Transnet, or interfering with the performance by any officials or employees of Trans­net of their duties.

Dludlu urged Satawu and United Transport and Allied Union (Utatu) to control their members and desist from acts of violence, intimidation and vandalism.

Utatu general secretary Chris de Vos said: “There have been some unfortunate incidents. But the focus should rather be on the 40 000 Trans­net workers who are striking legitimately — not the few who are behaving irresponsibly.”

De Vos said that the union is doing its best to soften worker anger.

“The bottom line of this strike is the waste of money and resources. All South Africans would now be better off had Transnet not opted to underpay its workers by as much as half the going rate,” he said.

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