As the illegal strike by security guards contracted to protect Metrorail stations and railway lines continues, a train was torched at Kuyasa station on Tuesday night and Van der Stel station in Stellenbosch was set alight.
It is suspected that striking security guards are behind the attacks.
The strike, which started last week Tuesday due to rumours that Metrorail is to terminate its contracts with private security firms and hire its own guards, has caused numerous train delays as cable thieves take advantage of the lack of security.
The strike has also left train stations unprotected with a resultant increase in opportunistic thefts against commuters.
As a result of the train set alight in Kuyasa, there were no trains running on the Khayelitsha line during the morning rush hour yesterday (subs: Wed), with the first train running only at about 8.30am.
This week’s strike is the second one in a month. Last month security guards engaged in a three-day strike after more than 18 guards were suspended by Metrorail for refusing to guard copper cables without the security clearance to carry weapons.
Last week Metrorail regional manager Lindelo Matya said “disgruntled” members of several security firms contracted to Metrorail Western Cape had embarked on an illegal strike, demanding to be employed directly by Metrorail.
South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) Western Cape secretary Thandabantu Rhoto said the union had been trying to resolve the issue, but had been unsuccessful so far.
A security sector chairperson sent to speak to striking guards in Bonteheuwel on Monday had to be rescued by police after guards threatened to attack him.
He said the chairperson had told guards that the strike was illegal and they would lose their jobs if they did not return to work.
Contracted security company Comwezi’s company secretary Elton Rochert directed all queries to Metrorail.
Metrorail provincial spokesperson Riana Scott had not responded to questions regarding an update on the situation before going to press.
Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa Group CEO Lucky Montana has vowed to take action against striking security guards suspected of setting a train alight at Kuyasa station on Tuesday night.
“I have no doubt that these criminal acts are instigated by the very owners of the companies themselves in a bid to secure ongoing contracts” added Montana.
He said the private sector companies were “engaged in acts of criminality in a bid to force PRASA to extend their security contracts and to provide employment to the respective security personnel”.
They could not be trusted to safeguard Prasa’s assets and their contracts would not be renewed, he said.
He said various incidents of arson, vandalism and sabotaged were reported in the Western Cape between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Van der Stel Station in Stellenbosch was set alight, a train was set alight at Kuyasa Station in Khayelitsha where 2 coaches were totally burnt out and track equipment in Langa and Elsies Rivier was vandalised. This morning, train seats on one of our trains in Crawford Station was set alight, fortunately the fire was put out quickly limiting damage to one coach.
“Clearly these acts are organised as since last week we had 18 such incidents of vandalism and cable theft in the Khayelitsha line,” said Montana. – Nombulelo Damba