Western Cape police ombudsman highlights failings in train arson investigation

File picture. Firefighters put out a fire after a train was set alight in Cape Town.

File picture. Firefighters put out a fire after a train was set alight in Cape Town.

Published Jun 18, 2020


Cape Town - Western Cape police ombudsman Johan Brand has recommended that the provincial police commissioner implement appropriate steps to address the inefficiencies highlighted in his report on the train arson investigation.

In his report, Brand also recommended that his investigation should be forwarded to the standing committee on community safety, cultural affairs and sport of the legislature, to monitor whether the inefficiencies identified were indeed addressed by the police in the province.

This comes after the provincial Government Gazette published a notice on December 12 inviting

comments from the public on the investigation.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said: “This investigation was requested following a spate of arson attacks on railway infrastructure and the police’s inability to apprehend those responsible.”

Fritz said during the height of those attacks, commuters experienced a great sense of feeling unsafe and experienced serious delays and cancellations of trains, leaving them stranded.

“The question of railway safety is all the more important as the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) prepares to resume some services on July 1.”

According to the report findings, the complaint was found by the ombud to be substantiated and that the national police commissioner

and Prasa group chief executive “must have realised some of the inefficiencies when they signed a memorandum

of understanding (MOU) on February 5, 2019.

“The current uncertainty concerning security contracts with Prasa, however, threatens to defeat the purpose of the MOU,” the ombud added.

It was his opinion that the inefficiencies within Prasa have contributed “to a large extent to the inefficiency of the police to perform their mandate”

United Commuters Voice (UCV) spokesperson João Jardim said the findings and recommendations were distorted and truth bending had been applied to the document.

Jardim said the UCV was never approached for input or contacted by any member of the minister’s or ombud’s office.

“What the report fails to highlight is what UCV has tabled at Prasa, Parliament and the Competition Commission for well over three years.”

He said that the solution was

twofold, visible police and security at stations, and the permit for selling scrap copper.

United National Transport Union spokesperson Sonja Carstens said they participated in the investigation.

“We have been saying that the police are incapable of adhering to their mandate when it comes to railway policing.

“We have a dedicated railway policing unit in name, but it means nothing in practise and the finding of the ombudsman is justification to what we have been saying.”

Unite Behind organiser Zukie Vuka said Prasa has already lost infrastructure worth millions of rand and there were serious questions whether the entity would have the capacity to resume service, adhere to Covid-19 measures and ensure commuter safety.


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Cape Argus