The transport department has teamed up with other state entities to devise a plan to curb theft and vandalism of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) infrastructure.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the prevalence of crime in the rail environment had reached alarming levels. “Theft and vandalism of critical infrastructure in our railways not only places the lives and livelihoods of those who rely on trains in danger but also has dire consequences for the economy.”
He said the plan was a product of a collaborative effort with the SAPS, State Security and Justice and Correctional Service, as well as the National Prosecuting Authority.
It was intelligence-driven and would enable them to find the criminals wherever they hid, be it their homes, communities, or workplaces.
“The department is committed to setting up a compact with communities on the ground so that communities play an activist role in protecting public infrastructure and exposing criminal networks.”
United National Transport Union secretary-general Steve Harris said they were cautiously optimistic about the new security plan.
“This is what we and our affiliate federation (Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa) asked for when we handed over our memorandums to the Presidency and other government institutions during our nationwide marches in July 2019.
“The minister indicated that the plan had been operational for the past few weeks, but union members nationwide are not experiencing a tangible difference.” In this regard, Harris said the proof “will be in the pudding”.
“Over the years, several ministers implemented new plans. The result was a consistent deprivation of infrastructure and its assets, making it impossible to provide a safe and reliable service to commuters.”
Mbalula referred to “rotten apples within Prasa, who work in cahoots with crime syndicates”.
Harris said the vandalising of Prasa infrastructure was aggravated by the decision of the former board to cancel the contracts of 20 security companies at the end of October last year.
“These security officials already had years of experience and intelligence in the rail environment,” said Harris.