Cape Town – The Western Cape Police Ombudsman is probing the police’s alleged failure to investigate arson and vandalism of Metrorail trains, and has now called for the public to comment.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said he approached the ombudsman last year to investigate why the police had been unable to identify or arrest suspects involved in several train arson attacks which have severely impacted the Cape Town rail system.
Fritz said he had been informed that in the interim, the investigation would continue with interviews and the gathering of evidence.
“I am reassured by the progress made and look forward to the outcome of the investigation,” Fritz said.
He encouraged the public to provide comments to enable the ombudsman’s office to make an informed finding and recommendations.
The Provincial Government Gazette published a notice on December 12 last year, inviting comments from the public on the investigation before January 31.
SA Transport and Allied Workers Union spokesperson Zanele Sabela said they welcomed the decision by the ombudsman.
“The union has been calling on Prasa to make the safety of its commuters, workers and infrastructure a priority. Our members in the Western Cape staged a picket in October 2019 demanding immediate intervention on safety aspects, but their cries fell on deaf ears,” Sabela said.
United Commuters Voice spokesperson Joao Jardim said the ombudsman should also focus on how “lazy” police deployed on trains sat in first class in groups of two and three or more, yet were not willing to assist commuters.
DA provincial spokesperson on Transport and Public Works, Daylin Mitchell, condemned the vandalism and cable theft which have crippled the Cape Town Central railway line.
“Acts of vandalism, theft and train arson continue to hold thousands of commuters to ransom and cause further economic paralysis and stagnation, which will undoubtedly affect jobs and livelihoods in the Cape Town metro,” Mitchell said.
He said the passenger rail network could not function if the national government continued to neglect the service, along with many others in the province.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula had a departmental meeting with Prasa last week and said they were committed and working to turn around the challenges faced by the rail agency, “to benefit our people who use it daily for work and other essential services”.
Mbalula has vowed to provide an update on the state of operations at Prasa. He said he would provide a status report on the War Room today and would detail his Service Level Agreement with the Prasa administrator.
According to the ombudsman’s office, any person or organisation may submit written representations regarding the investigation up until January 31.
The written representations should be marked for the attention of Mr JJ Brand and delivered by hand, post, e-mail or fax as follows: By hand: 6th Floor, NBS Waldorf Building, 80 St George’s Mall, Cape Town 8001; By post: Private Bag X9043, Cape Town 8000; By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; By fax: 021 483 0660.
* This article was first published in the Cape Argus.