Train services suspended in Gauteng as violence escalates
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PRETORIA – Passenger train service Metrorail has suspended train services in South Africa’s Gauteng province following the escalation and spread of violence which erupted following the arrest last week of former president Jacob Zuma.
“Gauteng train commuters and employers are informed that no train services will operate in all its corridors across the province on Monday ... This is due to the chaotic scenes that are witnessed in [Johannesburg] and now spilling over and affecting its operational areas,” Gauteng Metrorail acting spokesperson Tony Games said in a statement.
“Suspending the train service is not only in Metrorail’s interest, but also in the interest of safety of all its critical assets - loyal customers and employees who deserve a safe and secure operational environment.”
Metrorail would closely monitor the situation to determine when it was safe to run the train service again, Games added.
The Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal provinces have witnessed a trail of destruction and looting of shops over the last few days in violence that started off as protests against Zuma’s imprisonment. The former president handed himself in just before midnight on Wednesday to start serving a 15-month jail term contempt of court as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
This stems from Zuma last November walking out from a sitting of the commission probing state capture during his term in office. His move was in reaction to commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s rejection of Zuma’s demand that he recused himself over his alleged bias. Zuma subsequently defied court orders to return to the commission and testify.
His jailing has angered his supporters, who say Zuma has been politically targeted.
In a national address on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the ongoing violence, adding that the chaotic scenes were partly a result of ethnic mobilisation, an indirect reference to how some of Zuma’s supporters have spoken about their determination to defend a fellow-Zulu tribesman.
“While there are those who may be hurt and angry at this moment, there can never be any justification for such violent, destructive and disruptive actions,” said Ramaphosa, adding that South Africa’s Constitution guaranteed everyone’s right to freely express themselves and to engage in peaceful protests.
“It is a matter of concern to all South Africans that some of these acts of violence are based on ethnic mobilisation,” the president said.
“This must be condemned by all South Africans, at all costs, as we are a nation committed to non-racialism and non-tribalism, that is underpinned by the diversity and unity of all the people of South Africa, whatever their language, culture, religious beliefs and race.”
– African News Agency