Rail Enforcement Unit members File picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Metrorail has slammed what it called the politicising of the Rail Enforcement Unit safety initiative.

This after DA senior officials met members of the Rail Enforcement Unit earlier this week, saying the unit had been introduced in reaction to the general breakdown in security on trains.

DA Western Cape premier candidate Alan Winde, along with Team One South Africa spokesperson on crime, John Steenhuisen, DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi and Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith had engaged with members of the unit.

Winde had said Metrorail accounted for more than 40% of public transport market share with 650 000 passenger trips per day.

“It is unacceptable that our people have to be fearful every time they board a train. The people of Cape Town deserve a safe and reliable public transport system,” he said.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker hit back, saying: “The politicising of a safety initiative is short-sighted and disingenuous - this is Prasa’s (Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s) response to claims that the Rail Enforcement Unit was introduced in reaction to the general breakdown in security on trains.

“The unit is a delivery method and initiative launched by the National Minister of Transport, Dr Blade Nzimande, with the view that all spheres of government should collaborate to secure commuters.

“Many of the socio-economic issues that impact on the provision of a train service are directly attributable to a lack of adequate services. To claim that the unit had a massive impact on crime is disingenuous, misleading and no more than an opportunistic political stunt.”

Walker said they had lodged a complaint with the Rail Management Task Team chairman, Donald Grant.

Walker said the unit was conceptualised and implemented to demonstrate collaboration and delivery by different spheres of the government and not a political party.

“The objectives of the unit are to support the SAPS in the identification and closure of the illicit metal traders to curtail the copper theft industry, to improve the protection of rail infrastructure and to improve safety and security for commuters.

“Therefore its members are trained as peace officers with traffic warden, street survival skills and firearm competency.”

Smith said they had not politicised anything and made mention of the partnership on several occasions during the meeting.

“This is an inappropriate reaction and not in the spirit of partnership. We said nothing harmful about Mr Walker or Prasa, everything we did was encouraging members, saying it is working well, we need to continue to expand it.

“The City and province did not claim credit exclusively, even though we are contributing two-thirds of the budget.

“He is in denial to say that security aspects had not collapsed. Ask any train commuter in the city and they would disagree.”

Meanwhile, 15 suspects were arrested over the last week; five for cable theft in Langa, Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha, Kuyasa and Woodstock. 

The other 10 were arrested for other offences such as robbery, possessing stolen goods and malicious damage to property.

Cape Times