The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) commends the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation, Provincial Crime Intelligence and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Department for apprehending two men and a plant and operations manager with stolen items valued at R25 million. The individuals were recently (on or about 08 October 2020) arrested at a steel and manufacturing company at Alrode Alberton. The Transnet items in their possession included contact wires, overhead cables and railway tracks etc.
The vandalism of state property is a countrywide phenomenon that represents class distinctions and national antagonisms in the structure of South Africa’s political economy. The private sector (warehouses and scrapyards) continues to find ways to exploit the social ills which plague the unemployed, marginalised, hungry and poor. This relationship of convenience is, however, at the detriment of South Africa’s plans for achieving an integrated public transport system, freight corridors, mobility of people, goods, services and the economy in general.
The NDoT (National Department of Transport) under the leadership of Minister Fikile Mbalula, for example, disbanded the PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) Board of Control (BoC) after taking our concerns and criticisms into consideration. The BoC was irrational as it compromised the property of PRASA, lives of employees and commuters. The reason for this is that the BoC abruptly terminated private security contracts. Minister Mbalula intervened by creating a conducive environment for PRASA which resulted in the employment of more than 3100 security officers through insourcing. This was the first step towards the right direction in respect of protecting the lives and property of PRASA.
SATAWU is unambiguous with the fact that South Africa’s transport infrastructure, the safety of employees and commuters must be protected at all material times. We have consistently raised concerns regarding the poor state of safety and security within the rail sector. The union appealed to the NDoT and DPE (Department of Public Enterprise) to speedily develop strategies that seek to curb theft and vandalism. The two enterprises through the shareholder compact must formulate an integrated national safety and security strategy to enhance business intelligence. This will ultimately combat crime at Transnet and PRASA. In summary, we support the views of Minister Fikile Mbalula that cable theft and removal of railway lines should be categorised as economic sabotage which deserves harsh sentencing.