Cape Town - Police have been questioning a suspect in connection with the spate of attacks on trains.
It’s believed the suspect was “a dismissed employee of a service provider”.
This was announced by Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa’s) acting group chief executive, Nathi Khena, on Wednesday.
Damage to 17 coaches, the equivalent of two train-sets, caused by recent arson attacks on Metrorail trains in stations around Cape Town, have amounted to R70 million, Khena added.
He said this has “strongly coincided” with an unprotected and illegal strike by 182 provincial South African Transport and Allied Workers Union members (Satawu).
The 182 workers included some who were already suspended for other misconduct.
Khena confirmed that Prasa had gone to the labour court just before the conference to discuss the striking workers.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk confirmed last week that cases of arson and a case of malicious damage to property were opened for investigation.
Khena said all spheres of police had been investigating the criminal acts and that they have been in the process of questioning a suspect.
He said the suspect was a dismissed employee of a “service provider”.
“There have been rumours that some current employees are going out and getting outside people to come in,” he said.
Despite committing to transport commuters with buses from stations in a bid to ease the impact of train delays, Khena admitted these measures “do little to ease the annoyance and agitation experienced”.
“Our commuters spend most of their time at work and we know that going home and spending time with family is the most important thing.
“We are aware of the impact this disruption had on the reliability and safety of our service. We continue to ask our loyal customers to be patient with us,” he said.
Implementing preventative measures to avoid further damage has been a primary concern.
These include increasing a police presence at the stations to keep acts of violence at bay.
Regarding the lengths criminals will go to to commit acts such as arson and cable theft, Khena said:
“It is quite dangerous, as I know these criminals will be in an unsafe environment, dealing with live wires and crossing railways, but I have no sympathy for these culprits. These culprits delay our commuters and destroy our infrastructure.”
Last year, Prasa suffered R128m in damages in the Western Cape because of arson attacks.
Regional manager Richard Walker said the Western Cape region’s train fleet comprised 89 train-sets, but this would have to increase.