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Rail recovery on key Joburg suburban line hampered by stoning, vandalism

Rail recovery on key Joburg suburban line hampered by stoning, vandalism
Illustrative image: Commuters hang on to trains at Rondebosch Station in Cape Town. (Photo: GroundUp / Ashraf Hendricks) | Missing rails at the Old Benrose Station in Johannesburg. (Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed) | (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath ) | Prasa’s new People’s Train. (Photo: Brenton Geach)

Barely a week since the reopening of the Midway-Johannesburg railway line, several new trains have been stoned in areas such as Kliptown in Soweto.

The vandalism and stoning of trains in Kliptown is not new, but commuters fear for their safety as new trains are now being attacked.

“They are not doing it for fun. They will not end by just stoning the trains, they want to get the trains to stop so that they can rob the commuters,” commuter Vusi Makhuvhele said. 

Makhuvhele’s companion, Simon Siwela, agreed. “Addicts are too lazy to do anything for fun. By stoning the trains they hope something will go wrong and bring the trains to a halt so that they can gain access to the commuters and then rob them.”  

Trains are stoned by young males, starting during the day and escalating at night. 

Trains on the Johannesburg-Midway corridor started running on Monday, 12 May as more crucial lines are being reopened by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa). 

The reopening of the corridor takes the number of recovered corridors to at least 31 out of a total of 40. On the Naledi-Johannesburg line, which runs parallel to the Midway-Johannesburg line, trains have been running seamlessly for months, and most passengers are elated. 

rail recovery Kliptown

The Kliptown train station, stripped by thieves. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Safety fears

The fresh attacks on the new trains in Kliptown have left commuters fearing for their safety and wondering if they made the right decision by turning their backs on taxis so soon after the return of train services. 

“Taxis are very expensive in comparison, that’s why I couldn’t waste another second and dumped the taxis for trains. The only problem is safety – taxis are expensive but relatively safe. I don’t know if I want to risk my life, especially in the late trains when the stoning becomes worse,” Makhuvhele said.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) in Gauteng did not respond to queries about safety on the trains and the status of theft and vandalism cases. 

Kliptown was one of the stations hit hardest in widespread looting of Prasa assets during the Covid-19 pandemic. 


While the Naledi-Johannesburg line has been operational for months without glitches, there have been some challenges in the Midway-Johannesburg operations. 

“I know that on Monday there was a technical glitch,” Prasa spokesperson Andiswa Makanda said. 

The cancellation of a media briefing on rail infrastructure by Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga on Thursday, 16 May fuelled speculation that the recovery of the destroyed rail network was not going according to plan. It is not known when the briefing will take place. 


While the old practice of stoning trains has returned, Prasa said it has recorded a significant drop in copper cable theft. 

In the 2022/23 financial year the agency lost a whopping R7,530,673 through cable theft. In the 2023/24 financial year there was a considerable drop to R1,432,047. 


“Our integrated security strategy includes the increased visibility of security augmented by collaboration and partnership with the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies,” Makanda said. 

“Additionally, we have also reduced copper content on overhead cables to make wires less attractive to criminals.”

Prasa told Daily Maverick on Thursday that the perpetrators ranged from criminal syndicates to opportunistic criminals. 

Since the beginning of 2023, the agency said, it has achieved 18 convictions of perpetrators of theft and vandalism, with a combined prison term of 103 years. 

“Some of our Protection Services Personnel received peace officer status, granting them arresting powers similar to the SAPS,” it said. DM


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