Only two people have been arrested and no-one has been convicted for torching train carriages in the Western Cape in the past 10 years, Premier Helen Zille has revealed.

Several carriages have been set alight, causing damages running into millions of rands. Services have also been badly affected as a result of increasing train arson attacks across the City of Cape Town. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Zille said she was “deeply concerned” that in the last 10 years, the police have made only two arrests and secured no convictions in that regard.

She said this information was sourced from the SAPS for a parliamentary reply to the provincial legislature by Community Safety MEC Dan Plato. 

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Zille said: “This information reflects a problem throughout the criminal justice pipeline, starting with Crime Intelligence. Train-burning is economic sabotage on a grand scale.  

“There needs to be sufficient urgency and expertise brought to bear on investigating, arresting, charging and convicting those responsible.  

“It is wholly unacceptable that not a single person has been held accountable for these brazen attacks, many of which are initiated in broad daylight and in busy carriages. The question must be asked: ‘Why?’”  

She said the Western Cape government, through the Department of Community Safety, has already committed a R100 000 reward to anyone who provides information to the police which results in the arrest and successful conviction of those responsible for train arson on the Cape Town rail system.

Zille said: “I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General KE Jula, to inquire about SAPS’ efforts to address this matter. 

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“We are calling on those with information to come forward. The Cape rail system is the backbone of a transport system that connects the people of Cape Town with their livelihoods, education and personal interests.”

The premier said arson damage to trains in the last four months was about R50 million, and at least R210 million in the past five years. 

Prasa requires 88 train sets to run an effective service. Due to arson, cable theft, and vandalism, the available sets are down to below 40 – fewer than half the number required.

The number of passengers using Metrorail has declined from more than 608 000 in 2014 to 360 000 in 2017. This has a direct effect on congestion on the Cape Town’s roads, as passengers shun the dysfunctional rail system.

– African News Agency