South Africa

Train Safety

Enforcement officers set to face daily danger on Cape Town trains

A Metrorail official walks passed a charred train carriage in Cape Town. It is one of several carriages damaged in arson attacks in recent weeks. Archived photo: Ashraf Hendrick

Deployment of 71 rail enforcement officers for the City Of Cape Town’s train system is aimed at curbing commuter attacks and vandalism at stations in the city.

I’m not afraid of the danger that is coming my way,” said Simion Scholtz, one of the new railway enforcement officers who has been tasked with providing security for Cape Town’s train services.

Scholtz, who has been working for the City of Cape Town for the past five years, is one of 71 railway officers being trained to provide railway safety to Cape Town’s train commuters who have faced numerous instances of robberies, assaults and even death.

It’s my duty to defend South Africa and commuters,” said Scholtz, who spoke to Daily Maverick on the sidelines of an inspection of railway safety officers by Western Cape premier Helen Zille and City of Cape Town mayoral committee members JP Smith and Brett Herron.

The new railway officers will be part of a joint railway safety unit between the City, the provincial government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa ( Prasa). These officers, who are undergoing training in rail commuter safety, self-defence and firearm training, are expected to start their duties in October.

In her speech, Zille said that there had been 32 murders and 114 incidents of assaults reported on trains or at stations between 2015 and 2017.

The launch of the unit has not been without drama.

The city has accused Prasa of failing to pay their contribution of R16-million needed to set up and fund the unit.

Zille reiterated Mayco member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron’s weekend claim that Prasa had not contributed its R16-million saying the agency had not paid, nor had it “provided a timeline as to when they will”.

A memorandum of understanding between the city and Prasa was signed in May.

On Wednesday, Herron said Prasa officials met with city officials on Tuesday where Prasa confirmed they would pay the required amount.

We had to poke at Prasa to pay their share,” Herron said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Prasa said the matter around payment towards the project was being escalated to the Prasa board.

Prasa Rail acting CEO Martha Ngoye said the agency remained “fully committed to working together in order to confront the scourge of vandalism, theft and crime that has been afflicting Cape Town commuters, and threatening the provision of a safe and reliable service”.

It is unclear to train routes the officers would be deployed. Herron could not confirm if the new officers would be deployed to the notorious Central Line – operating between Khayelitsha and the Cape Town CBD, saying those decisions would be “informed by criminal intelligence”. DM


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