The United National Transport Union (UNTU) welcomes the swift response of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in arresting two teenagers in connection with the most recent arson attacks at the Cape Town Station, but serious doubt that a 14 year old and a 15 year old are behind the ongoing attacks for the past four years.

UNTU has repeatedly asked the SAPS to utilise its crime intelligence service to confirm the Unions suspicion that a third force, with a motive to ruin the passenger rail service in the Western Cape and its frail economy for its own benefit, is behind the attacks.

“It is sad that the arrests this week only came after the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) made CCTV footage available and offered a reward of R100 000 for information that would lead to the arrest and successful prosecution of the suspects.

“There seems to be very little left of the SAPS’ ability to investigate these sensitive crimes after the reign of former Crime Intelligence Boss Richard Mdluli,” says Harris.

In September this year the Zondo Commission onto State Capture heard testimony that Mdluli allegedly looted the Crime Intelligence secret service for security upgrades, overseas trips and various vehicles.

According to Harris the SAPS has taken no accountability to date for the fact that its Rapid Rail Unit has failed in its mandate to Prasa.

In an official SAPS report dated September 2016 on the functionality of this unit, it is stated that:

“The mandate of the Rapid Rail Police Units is embedded within the mandate of the South African Police Service which is derived from section 205 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.


The functions of the Rapid Rail Police Units include:

– rendering of a visible policing service within the rail environment to address safety of commuters, passengers, freight and the rail transport system;

– conducting of preventative and reactive policing service within the rail environment;

– providing of a rapid rail policing service within the rail environment; and

– performing of crime prevention and crime combating operations in the rail environment.

Total strength of the operational Rapid Rail Police = Police Act members = 3232.”

According to Harris the now disbanded Board of Prasa promised UNTU that the members of this unit were deployed on platforms at stations on 11 November 2019 when they were confronted by the massive wave of vandalism of the infrastructure, they triggered with the decision to terminate the services of more than twenty private security companies on 31 October 2019.

“UNTU’s members and commuters have been left vulnerable and under siege from criminals for the past six weeks. This is nothing short of a crime against humanity,” says Harris.

Since 2014 the Western Cape had lost 213 coaches to the value of R6 million each in arson attack.


Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary responsible for Media, Liaison and Communication.

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