MINISTER of Transport Fikile Mbalula visited the Gibela train manufacturing plant at Nigel yesterday.     Bongani Shilubane  African News Agency (ANA)
MINISTER of Transport Fikile Mbalula visited the Gibela train manufacturing plant at Nigel yesterday. Bongani Shilubane African News Agency (ANA)

Vandalising trains is economic sabotage - Fikile Mbalula

By LIAM NGOBENI Time of article published Feb 18, 2020

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Pretoria - Economic sabotage should be the charge that criminals who vandalise and steal railway equipment face when they are arrested, says Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.

He said the charge of theft for vandalism of railway equipment was just not working.

Mbalula was inspecting the world-class Gibela manufacturing plant, which is producing world class trains in Nigel, Ekurhuleni.

Boasting a R1billion investment, Mbalula said the trains being produced should not be subjected to the plague others have seen countrywide by being torched and vandalised.

“The Criminal Amendment Act of 2015 approves the question of people being charged with economic sabotage but that has not been happening. We have arrested people in Heidelberg and they have been appearing in court. I told the administrator to work with the police and the Justice Department and make an example of these people.”

Mbalula said charges of theft did not work. “They get charged with theft for vandalising entire networks and sabotaging people from going to work. Certain lines coming to a halt, signals not working, trains vandalised by criminals they are nabbed and what do they get? Nothing.”

He said that in certain cases children were used to burn and vandalise trains and “as we intensify efforts, we have to ensure that the law that has been amended to address these crimes is applied effectively as and when they get arrested”.

He said he had spoken to Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shamila Batohi and Minister of Police Bheki Cele so criminals arrested did not get away with just a theft charge. “This is a cobweb of underworld thugs. In Heidelberg they take copper cables, melt them, export them via Mozambique and take it to India. We need a response; collectively we need to respond and have a strategy.”

Mbalula said the problem of vandalism and theft of equipment was an issue all round and certain lines such as the Mabopane line were closed until September. Interim services were expected to kick in and security was high on the list of priorities, which would make for a better response to the scourge.

An 80km fence wall between Mabopane and Pretoria will be constructed. New security measures include plans for drones, re-fencing and critical hotspot area thermal cameras fitted with sensors.

Guard numbers are to be increased and stationed in critical areas by the beginning of next month.

Pretoria News

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