As further attacks of arson on Metrorail trains continued yesterday (Thurs) striking security guards claimed that they were having to pay R2500 to Metrorail to ensure future employment.
The strike by security guards employed by companies contracted to Metrorail started last Tuesday after news that Metrorail would not renew the contracts and employ guards directly, and has been marked by acts of arson and sabotage.
On Tuesday Stellenbosch’s Van der Stel station was set alight and two coaches on a train at Kuyasa station were burnt out. Yesterday two trains on the Langa line were set alight, but the flames were extinguished before extensive damage occurred.
Passenger Rail Agency South Africa CEO Lucky Montana said track equipment in Langa and Elsies River has also been vandalised and on Wednesday train seats on one of the coaches at Crawford station were set alight.
“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, who believed striking security guards were behind the acts.
The lack of security has also resulted in anecdotal evidence from commuters of an increase in muggings and theft as criminals are not in danger of being apprehended at train stations, and the arson and sabotage has resulted in a number of train delays, sometimes at peak hours.
But yesterday about 300 striking guards gathered at the Bonteheuwel train station to discuss allegations that a human resources manager at Metrorail was promising future security jobs with Metrorail in exchange for R2500 cash.
A supervisor at Comwezi Security Company, Bulelani Tshiki, said 30 Comwezi guards had said they were promised permanent jobs by a Metrorail official in exchange for cash and a copy of their CVs.
“We know positions are available but they (Metrorail) want to hire their own families or sell (the jobs) as they already have.”
He said the guards would continue to strike until they received answers from Metrorail.
“Our contract is ending at the end of this month. We need answers now, what is going to happen to us when the contract ends?”
South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) Provincial Chairperson Andile Nomlali, said the union did not support the strike and all their members were back at work.
“Only Chippa security company gave us a notification of retrenchment because their contact with Metrorail ends this month, but we can’t negotiate for them while they’re striking.”
Nomlali said Satawu had never supported the strike and the security guards should have waited for the union to negotiate with Metrorail.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said Metrorail was investigating the allegations of money being exchanged for jobs.
Metrorail regional manager Lindelo Matya condemned the acts of arson and sabotage.
“Irresponsible actions like these endanger our customers’ and employees’ lives and destroys vital infrastructure that thousands of commuters rely on to transport them”, stated Matya.
He said there was a “direct correlation” between the start of the strike and incidents of vandalism.
“More than 41 incidents of vandalism have been recorded since the start of the strike by rogue elements within private security firms. These firms are contracted by Metrorail to safe guard stations and other assets. The striking guards are demanding to be employed by Metrorail. Metrorail has categorically maintained that the company’s recruitment policy will be complied with at all costs.”
He said Metrorail had “no option” but to apply for an interdict banning the striking workers from its premises.
“Should anyone found to have accepted bribes or extorted money for CV’s under the guise of providing employment, the law should take its course.”
Due to incidents related to the strike Metrorail has introduced a revised train service between Chris Hani and Khayelitsha Stations and supplemented capacity by introducing additional special buses between Chris Hani – Cape Town, Kuyasa – Cape Town, Nonkqubela – Cape Town and Khayelitsha – Cape Town. These buses run on an express line between the origin stations and Cape Town Station and do not stop en route. The Khayelitsha Express has also been replaced by a bus service until it is safe to return to normal operating times. — Nombulelo Damba