Cape Town - In a bid to protect the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa's (Prasa) infrastructure, the entity has trained at least 270 volunteers in the Western Cape to join its newly launched programme, the People’s Responsibility to Protect Project (PR2P).
The more than R100 million project was launched by the Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, the Prasa board, the police, civil and community organisations at the Langa train station yesterday.
The project was expected to be implemented in five phases: the launch and public engagement; volunteer training; deployment and integration; project monitoring and evaluation; and report writing.
Mbalula said the first phase would entail the roll-out of a public engagement programme, which would engage with community stakeholders, community police forums, railway police, local municipalities, civic organisations and other relevant community-based organisations and non-governmental organisations.
He said the second phase would entail training volunteers to understand their roles in terms of the security and neighbourhood watch.
"They will also be trained on how to work with communities, with the police as well as Prasa Protection Services, in an integrative manner that makes a telling difference," said Mbalula.
He said on completion of the security training, the volunteers would be equipped with grade C security certificates accredited by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority.
He said the third phase would entail integration of 20 volunteers from each station area, 1 500 police reservists deployed, and 80 military veterans deployed in the 46 Prasa corridors.
Mbalula said this phase would entail monitoring and evaluation of the interventions to determine if the project is realising its intended objectives.
"It will also measure whether the project has made a tangible impact in the implementation of Prasa’s Crime Prevention and Security Strategies.
"Our efforts to restore the service and deploy the new trains require the kind of partnership we are launching today with all stakeholders," said Mbalula.
Maleki Mbonde, chairperson of the steering committee comprising the community development forums, policing forums and the South African National Civic Organisation, thanked Prasa for bringing the initiative to the Western Cape.
Mbonde said they have already done recruitments for the Western Cape volunteers to participate in the programme, without discriminating as to who comes from where.
"We did this because we want to make sure that people use, and feel safe when travelling with, trains," said Mbonde.
Acting provincial police commissioner Thembisile Patekile, said they were happy about the initiative. He said railway lines have been a problem for them, with infrastructure targeted by criminals stealing it.
He said with the new project, they are hoping to find those behind the vandalism of Prasa’s infrastructure, and he committed that they would also be part of the initiative.
Newly appointed Prasa group chief executive, Zolani Matthews, who had his first full day in the office yesterday, said the organisation should go back to basics – to providing safe, reliable and affordable commuter rail travel.
He said it would be impossible to gain the confidence of the commuters if they were unable to prioritise their safety.
United Commuters’ Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said the programme seemed to be full of good intentions, “but we also know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
Jardim said UCV made it clear that as long as the communities living in the station precinct are accommodated then they would support it in full.
“The UCV have discussed this with Prasa on many occasions, but Prasa has always been too slow to act. We support any initiative that promotes community upliftment but asks that communities are guarded against corruption and power-hungry individuals and organisations," said Jardim.