South Africa


Gun-wielding gangsters target Prasa, derail Western Cape train line repair plans

Gun-wielding gangsters target Prasa, derail Western Cape train line repair plans
Illustrative image: Sources: Daily Maverick archive | pngimg

Gang bosses, apparently angry about being cut out of security contracts on Cape Town’s railways, had their foot soldiers chase away those doing the jobs they want. They may also be behind a warning video of men shooting firearms into the air from the train tracks.

Operations to rehabilitate sections of railway in the Western Cape that have been destroyed through vandalism and theft have been put on hold because of threats of violence by gangsters.

Daily Maverick understands that on Monday, a video showing two men armed with high-calibre firearms and shooting into the air from railway tracks in Cape Town, was sent to Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) officials as a warning.

There were also reports that gangsters scared off workers who were repairing damaged infrastructure at certain Prasa sites. It is understood that certain gang bosses are angry over the awarding of security contracts or the allocating of jobs in the security sector, and are using intimidation and extortion to get what they want.

This week’s reports come after two Prasa security guards were wounded in a shooting in June. They were targeted at rail tracks that were being repaired near the Cape Town suburb of Bonteheuwel, areas of which are known to be gang strongholds.

Suspended repair work

The latest security issues have also affected stretches of Cape Town’s rail network that are undergoing repair work after being neglected and targeted by criminals.

Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda on Tuesday told Daily Maverick, without referring to the threatening video or going into details, that the situation was volatile.

One of the affected tracks is in Netreg, Bonteheuwel (the area where the two security guards were shot and wounded).

“We have had to suspend recovery work, which will delay recovery on that particular section,” Makanda said.

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‘Gangsters won’t hold us to ransom’

DA ward councillor Angus McKenzie, who deals with the Bonteheuwel area, said on Monday that “workers were stopped from working and chased off site by extortionist gangsters”.

McKenzie added: “To ensure the safety of staff and the surrounding communities, a decision was taken to halt operations… not to appease gangsters and extortionists, but to make sure that those staff members are safe.”

Work at the tracks could resume later this week.

“We will not be held to ransom by gangsters, neither will we allow gangsters to assume control of our projects and communities… This is not how we will operate and this is most certainly not what will [be] accepted,” McKenzie said.

Intimidation investigation

Western Cape police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk told Daily Maverick that a meeting was held between officers and Prasa members early on Tuesday “regarding the intimidation and extortion”. 

“The Prasa team indicated that all work will be [paused] until they have structures in place… A follow-up meeting will then take place.”

While Van Wyk did not refer to guns being fired into the air on Monday, he said Bishop Lavis police opened an inquiry into the intimidation of a Prasa contractor that occurred on Monday.

The contractor, he said, did not want to open a case with police.

‘We are under siege’

At the time of the security guard shootings in June, Prasa issued a statement saying: “Prasa is on a journey of recovering stolen and/or vandalised rail infrastructure and is aware of the vulnerability of the recovery work to criminal syndicates and opportunistic criminals.

“We have contracted and deployed additional security on the lines we are recovering, but it is clear that we are under siege, and the criminals will stop at nothing to get what they want.”

Central Line closure

Daily Maverick has previously reported on Cape Town’s Central Line needing substantial repairs because of vandalism and theft.

The Central Line runs through 21 stations. A line to Bellville station also runs on the Central Line to stations including Bonteheuwel.

Cape Town’s Central Line rail repairs could come to R2.5bn — Prasa chief

The Central Line was initially closed in late 2019 due to continuous vandalism and infrastructure theft, particularly at Netreg, where gang activities seem to have surged.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said last month: “I am pleased to learn that work is currently under way to refurbish the Bonteheuwel and [nearby] Lavistown stations,” he said.

“To safeguard the rail infrastructure, we have increased the number of security personnel on the ground to improve safety of our commuters and staff.  We remain confident that the integrated security plan will turn the tide against theft and vandalism.”

Last month, GroundUp reported that Mbalula said the Central Line may be fully functional by December, but commuters were sceptical. DM

This article was updated with the video embed which began to circulate on social media on Wednesday morning.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jacques Stoop says:

    Truly a sad indictment of the state of the police. Ramaphosa was truly a naive fool in failing to replace the National Police commissioner sooner. Now we sit with the consequences.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    Please excuse the manipulation of the adage, which seems appropriate in this instance: “South Africa proposes, but crime disposes”!

  • Barry Messenger says:

    Construction Mafia, zama-zamas, and now Prasa Gangsters. What a pitiful mess.

  • Wilfred Walker says:

    These gangsters and their bosses must be shot on site ! We the public are sick and tired of the sabotage of our national infrastructure that we’ve paid for with our taxes. They hide behind masks – the cowards !!

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The problem with PRASA, TRANSNET, the fuel and gas pipelines from Durban was the closure of the Railway Police by the ANC government who used to protect infrastructure and the safety of people to open up security tenders for people connected to the ANC leadership. This disastrous decision, has led to less use of mainline trains and unsafe Metrorail. The solution is the return of the Railway Police with the same mandate, powers and investigative capacity. The ANC is refusing to do this because the money from Transnet and PRASA security has been funding the ANC as Lucky Montana revealed at the Zondo Commission. Mbalula will not go that route because he has elections coming with very dry coffers. The removal of Matthews on flimsy basis and appointment of pliant CEOs at PRASA to push security tenders is an act of thuggery. The deliberate leaving of the infrastructure of PRASA not secured during the lockdown was also a ploy to open up other tenders for connected people. This act of treason of allowing an infrastructure central to the economy in terms of moving people and goods is one of the most serious crimes by the ANC against the people of South Africa let alone incompetence. These gangsters that are linked to the ANC political class in the Western Cape will continue their thuggery with an incompetent Minister of Police who with the President do not know the difference between a Commissioner of Police and Minister.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    And the President states that the Minister of Police is competent.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Let those cops who shot all the people at Marikani dress as workers and let them shoot back. At least the people they shoot will be armed. Is it really not possible to use ambushes, undercover operations and intelligence gathering to beat the gangs? Thousands suffer without a rail network.

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