Cape Town - The arson attacks on trains in South Africa were co-ordinated attempts to cripple passenger rail service in the country, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a briefing by Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) board and management members to Parliament's transport portfolio committee, Nzimande condemned the settling alight of two trains at the Cape Town station while the meeting was happening.
"We are very much concerned as the department [that] it's very clear that there is actually a plan to attack this property of Prasa that's undermining rail passenger transport," he said.
"We have been working with the minister of police but we are now of the view that we need to escalate this further to actually involve the entire [justice, crime prevention and security] cluster because...we cannot be able to catch the people who are doing this and even the few people that have been charged have gotten off scot-free."
Responding to calls for him to declare a state of emergency with regard to rail transport in the Western Cape, where 71 percent of the damage to trains due to arson happens, the minister said he neither had the power or believed that this was necessary.
"I do not think we need a state of emergency. We just need to intensify intelligence and broad security work to be able to nail the culprits," he said.
Earlier, Prasa board chairwoman Khanyisile Kweyama told members of Parliament (MPs) they cannot rule out the possibility of sabotage from former disgruntled employees or those who were unhappy with the Metrorail service.
After the meeting, Kweyama told African News Agency (ANA), Tuesday's attack was "staged".
"The last time we were sitting here at the portfolio committee there was a train burning and once again today we are at the portfolio committee and it starts again so it's very upsetting because it seems staged, it seems as if its sabotage and it's dangerous...," she said.
"It's almost as if we take five steps forward and three steps back, not because we are taking the steps back but because somebody is pulling in the wrong direction, hence we appeal to commuters, we appeal to the public to assist us to get this railway network to be functioning to make sure we provide safe, reliable transport to our passengers."
African News Agency (ANA)