By Alex Mitchley
Transport minister Blade Nzimande has blamed the recent burning of two Metrorail trains at Cape Town Station on a relentless force determined to reverse gains that the ANC government has made.
News24 previously reported that four train carriages were destroyed on platform four and another four carriages on platform 14 at the station on Sunday in a suspected arson attack. Metrorail has since confirmed that 11 carriages have been gutted by the fire.
The trains destroyed were yellow Metrorail trains, with some of the graffiti still visible on the blackened remains of the coaches.
Sinister forces at work
On Monday, Nzimande issued a statement condemning the burning of the two trains, calling on law enforcement agencies to urgently investigate and arrest perpetrators of this “unfortunate, senseless and well-orchestrated destruction of property through acts of criminality and sabotage of Metrorail.”
“It is now undeniable that there is a sinister force at work trying to destroy our rail system,” Nzimande said.
“It is also clear that this force is relentless and determined to reverse the ANC government gains and efforts being made to modernise Metrorail service, particularly in the Cape Town metro corridor.”
Nzimande added that in a modern democracy, individuals with ulterior motives cannot be allowed to turn Metrorail into a fertile ground for criminality.
“The ANC government will not tolerate a sinister force to continue to destroy rail services which in the main are used by the working class and the poor,” Nzimande warned.
Inability to protect trains
Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato on Monday said that the city’s Rail Management must account for their inability to protect trains, following the latest incident.
“The latest burning of another eight train carriages in the Cape Town central train station is an indictment on those responsible for the management of our rail network and they must account to the city’s public for the ongoing inaction to protect this essential public transport infrastructure,” Plato said in a statement.
He added that while the cause of the fire in the latest incident has not yet been determined, the reality is that more than 40 carriages have been burnt in arson attacks since 2017.
Plato said not a single person has been charged as being responsible for any of the more than 10 incidents over the past two years.
“Cape Town Central station has been the target of at least seven, and possibly eight, separate arson incidents since July 2018. Surely after the first incident you put the most stringent measures in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again? How is it that criminals can so brazenly burn our trains time and again and get away with it?”