Two behind bars over Pretoria train torchings

Two men have been arrested in connection with the burning of six Pretoria Metrorail trains, the South African Rail Commuter Corporation (SARCC) announced on Monday.

Six trains were torched at the Pretoria North, Winternest, Acacia Boom and Wolmerton stations on January 18 after they had been delayed due to a power failure.

“Two men have been arrested. They have already appeared in court,” SARCC spokesperson Pule Mabe told reporters at a press conference in Pretoria. He would not divulge further details, saying that the company wanted to give law-enforcement agencies time to investigate the case of malicious damage to property.

“The SARCC is calling on all our law-enforcement agencies to carry out judgements that will send out a strong message that rail services are public services and should be respected. Those who burn trains are criminal with no heart and feelings for those who rely on trains,” he said.

The SARCC—which owns and operates Metrorail—also announced that in a similar but separate case, a suspect was arrested in connection with an arson case in the Wits region during December. The suspect had been identified by two witnesses during an identity parade at Kliptown police station.

Touching on the power-cuts issue, Mabe said that engineers were working on the matter to see if there was reason for concern. “What we’ve done is that engineers are working on the matter to give us advice as to how load-shedding will affect us.”

Referring to the reduced restoration of trains along the Mabopane-Pretoria and De Weldt-Pretoria line, Mabe said that this had been done successfully and buses had been deployed in most of the affected areas to help transport commuters.

Last week, Metrorail said that 30 buses had been deployed to help transport commuters.

The SARCC also announced that R18-billion is to go towards passenger rail over a three-year- period.

Lucky Montana, the corporation’s CEO, last week told a meeting of the SARCC’s executive committee about a plan of action that included customer-focused improvements as well as the reduction of train cancellations and increasing accountability among employees.

A five-member board of inquiry is still studying the issue of the Metrorail Tshwane management team that was suspended shortly after the January 18 train torchings. The board is expected to rule on the team’s future before the end of the month.

Mabe added that the public was keen on helping to catch those who had torched the trains—not because of the R100 000 reward money, “but because of patriotism”.—Sapa



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