High security at Cape Town Station to prevent 'acts of terror'

2016-04-20 18:28
Three Metrorail train carriages were gutted by a fire at Nolungile Station in Site C, Khayelitsha, Cape Town, affecting train travel in the city. The cause of the fire is being investigated. (Lulama Zenzile, Die Burger)

Three Metrorail train carriages were gutted by a fire at Nolungile Station in Site C, Khayelitsha, Cape Town, affecting train travel in the city. The cause of the fire is being investigated. (Lulama Zenzile, Die Burger)

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Cape Town  There was a strong police presence at Cape Town Station on Wednesday after the SA Police Service dispatched officers to assist Metrorail's security services, following almost two weeks of attacks on railway infrastructure.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's acting group chief executive, Nathi Khena, also called on the justice system to show no mercy to the criminals behind the "acts of terror".

The rail agency again approached the Labour Court on Wednesday in connection with 182 employees who were on an unprotected strike.

"The judge is very concerned about the violent behaviour and the torching of trains," Khena said.

"He asked Satawu (SA Trade and Allied Workers Union) to put active measures in place to inform their members to comply with the court orders and refrain from being involved in acts of violence."

Seventeen coaches have been destroyed this year alone.

'Two train sets lost in three weeks'

"The Western Cape requires 89 train sets to operate our schedule. We have lost the equivalent of two train sets in the past three weeks," Khena said.

One suspect has been taken into custody for questioning in connection with the damage to the state-owned infrastructure, he said.

The man was understood to have been a cleaner who was dismissed by a Prasa service provider.

"This person is being interrogated as we speak and we hope more arrests of people involved in these violent acts will be made," he said.

Satawu's Western Cape spokesperson, Luntu Sokutu, told News24 on Tuesday that insinuations that its members were involved in the sabotage were not true, and that the union had complied with an interdict preventing its planned strike two weeks ago.

Metrorail took legal action on April 6, the eve of the union’s planned strike to demand an end to outsourcing, the permanent employment of fixed-term contract workers, a salary alignment with workers in other provinces, and the removal of Metrorail's regional manager, Richard Walker.

The union said he was incompetent.

'Acts of terror'

The first arson attack at Cape Town station took place two days after the strike was supposed to start.

On Friday morning, a train was set alight and four carriages were razed in Kraaifontein. Later that day, three carriages were set alight at the Esplanade Station.

Last weekend, two trains were set alight at Cape Town Station, resulting in the closure of platforms and delays.

Limited services were available to commuters in the central service area on Monday and there were delays and cancellations on the northern line due to vandalism and arson.

On Tuesday morning, Metrorail told commuters to make use of alternative transport, due to "anticipated delays of 120+ minutes on all lines".

This came after track circuits between Bonteheuwel and Netreg, as well as Mandalay and Stock Road, were damaged and apparatus cases were burnt at Woodstock, Esplanade, and Mandalay in "a series of targeted attacks".

Khena said trains that were torched last year resulted in R128m in damages in the Western Cape alone.

Prasa took its responsibility towards the safety and security of its passengers very seriously, he added.

"We call upon anyone who has proof and evidence of who the criminals are that are committing acts of terror on state owned assets. A reward of R100 000 still stands."

Read more on:    metrorail  |  cape town  |  crime

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