Prasa loses

Johan van Zyl,
Gordon’s Bay

I have of late become increasingly perturbed by problems that we face in government and in our economy, which demand early intervention and decisive action, but which seem not to get the right attention.

One I wish to highlight, is the losses incurred by the Passenger Rail Agency SA (at the taxpayer’s expense) due to fires occurring on Cape Town’s station and elsewhere, leading to the destruction of railway carriages.

Since 2015, 214 train carriages have been set alight in apparent arson attacks. This has amounted to a loss of R643 million over the past five years alone.

The very latest is the burning of 18 carriages, once again through the use of an accelerant.

So there has been a string of similar incidents and, under what I would call “normal circumstances” the perpetrators would have been sniffed out, arrested and brought to justice long, long ago, especially if you consider the impact of this criminality to the life and livelyhood of commuters and their employers.

Normal circumstances would expect PRASA to take serious note of the arson attacks, from the first time it occurred.

Not wanting a repeat of the loss for the taxpayer’s sake, as is this state-owned enterprise’s responsibility, swift action would be taken.

The investigation would uncover facts, motives, suspects, and in this way a body of intelligence would be built up, even if no arrests were initially made.

Following the second outbreak of arson, this intelligence would be strengthened and plans put in place to safeguard the carriages, seeing that the arson attempts are of a recurring nature.

Security people would be deployed, briefed on what to be on the lookout for, and advised on steps to prevent further attempts.

By the time of the third carriage fire incident, PRASA would consider the attacks as “sabotage” and not just “arson”, let alone “vandalism”.

There would be explicit plans and qualities put in place: vigilance, observation, foresight, countermeasures, readiness to intervene. A definite criminal modus operandi would have become clear, making it easier for security staff to thwart the attacks and begin with arrests.

But after all these several separate incidents, not a single person has yet been prosecuted. One person deemed to be mentally unfit was arrested some months ago, I believe.

If ever there was an incentive to carry on burning the trains without fear of retaliation, this was it. An activist group’s dream come true, if ever there was one.

What is going on with PRASA? Did an agency capture take place when we weren’t looking? Is this incompetence or something else?

Is it all right for SA to lose R643 million through criminal activity without the various perpretrators being brought to justice after all these years? I most vehemently think not.