The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes the city is facing a deliberate attempt to destroy its public transport infrastructure, which could have a devastating effect on the local economy.
This after yet another Metrorail carriage was on fire at Koeberg station on Tuesday, though it's still not 100% certain whether it was an arson attack. Since May 2015 a total of 150 carriages have been destroyed, leaving Metrorail with only 50 functioning train sets for its commuter services in Cape Town.
“If you put these arson attacks together with attacks on the signalling system and copper theft which paralyses the rail service, it is difficult to draw any other conclusion,” said Janine Myburgh, president of the Chamber.
Last month there were three arson attacks and a failed one. In July, 32 coaches were damaged in attacks which inflicted more than R50 million of damage to trains and rail infrastructure. In addition, both Golden Arrow and the MiCiTi bus services have lost vehicles in arson attacks.
“The cumulative damage to Metrorail is staggering for it is now down to just 50 full train sets, and this means it has lost more than 40% of its trains over the last few years and we still don’t know why,” said Myburgh.
Some of the attacks had taken place in the main station in the CBD where one would assume security was good.
“We are also looking at a failure of law enforcement as neither the police, the Railway Police or the private security companies employed by Metrorail have been able to make any headway. We have no crime intelligence on why this orgy of destruction is taking place.
"We’ve had just one arrest in the failed arson attempt last month and that has not yet produced any breakthrough,” Myburgh said.
It was a major setback when the police botched a potential breakthrough at the end of last month when a suspect who had set a train seat alight at Cape Town station had to be released.
"The suspect was released because there was a problem in the way the police had handled the identification process. They were not able to use the arrest opportunity to take the case further because the suspect had to be released," said a source, who did not want to be identified.
Cape Town was already paying a high price for the attacks on public transport in the form of congestion, absenteeism and lost productivity.
“No city of nearly four million people can function without public transport. Unless we get on top of this problem Cape Town will suffer lasting damage to its economy,” Myburgh said.