A division of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) has warned the public to desist from all acts that amount to assault of train drivers and burning of trains; it says services would be suspended should any such behavior continue.
This stern warning came a while after some commuters burned down five coaches of two stationary train on Tuesday night at Pretoria Station.
Condemning the acts, the provincial manager of the Metrorail Gauteng, Tembela Kulu said that the growing incidents of assault directed towards staff members across Gauteng is a part of the challenges the services face.
“These incidents of vandalizing Metrorail assets and attacking personnel are totally unacceptable. We will ensure that law enforcement agencies prosecute those perpetrators to bring an end to this wanton destruction of our assets. We are determined to throw the book at those found guilty of this criminality and will work hand in hand with the prosecuting authorities to ensure that they are charged with wilful destruction of public property and economic sabotage,” said Kulu.
Prasa had on several occasions, suspended its train services in Spings, Daveyton and Dunswart corridor as a result of the increasing intimidation and assaults by commuters on train drivers and metro guards.
However, though the Metrorail sympathized with the concerns of commuters around train service challenges experienced within the system, most of which are beyond their control,Kulu said that the destruction of property was in no way complementary to this process,
“It cannot be that while the country is desperately trying to improve its public transport system, with government injecting billions to make this a reality, others are determined to undermine this at all costs,” added Kulu.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Prasa in Gauteng, Lillian Mofokeng stated that though the quantity of damage done is yet to be verified, an estimate of properties worth millions of rand was involved.
Airing their view on social media, some of the commuter were of the view that they had to take laws into their own hands as the metrorails have failed to serve them in the past one week.
According to IOL news, a commuter named Mabelane Condrey said that trains to Johannesburg were running late since last week. She said the issue was that there were no trains to Joburg from 4pm till 7pm on Tuesday. She said commuters decided that enough was enough and torched the train.
Others like Xolisani Maziwayinkosi Bhebhe said: “People are fed up with Prasa.” and Shakong Lesely Maila: “Yaaa, (it) does good; Prasa disrespects the commuters.”
Meanwhile, in the past, Prasa admitted that it was experiencing challenges ranging from old infrastructure to old trains, which have led to delays in services. But they pleaded with the commuters to exercise patience and calm as they are doing their best to solve the problems.
Train services in Pretoria will operate based on the availability of assets and infrastructure and Police spokesman Augustinah Selepe has confirmed that one person has been arrested for malicious damage to property and will be appearing in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.