The South African Police Service (SAPS) in Bloemfontein is investigating a case of arson after 24 train carriages were torched at a local station. According to police, the discovery was made by an employee from the Passenger Rail Agency (Prasa) on Saturday afternoon.
“The cause of the fire is under investigation but it has been determined that there was no electricity or fuel in the carriages”, said spokesperson Col Thandi Mbambo.
Security personnel had reportedly noticed a group of young men at the yard and removed them from the property, however, they later returned and set fire to two coaches.
“The youths it seems returned and deliberately set fire to two old coaches staged at the depot of trains earmarked for refurbishment and repairs. These acts of criminality, unfortunately, contribute negatively towards further reducing the rolling stock available,” said Prasa spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng.
Watch: R90 million in damages from the arson attack
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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has condemned the incident, which will cause an estimated R90 million worth of damages.
Mbalula says it’s a pure act of criminality which will be dealt with as swiftly and as harshly as possible.
Train services at the station have not been disrupted, however, the fire has affected rolling stock availability & damaged critical cables at the depot.
People with information that could lead to the apprehension of the suspects have been urged to contact the police.
The latest incident comes merely months after 18 train carriages were destroyed at Cape Town station, also in a suspected arson attack which added to the city’s public transport problem.
Two teenage boys, aged fourteen and fifteen, were arrested and charged with arson. The minors then appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court where their case was postponed to January 9 2020.
This spells more bad news for Metrorail, as damages from arson attacks, dating back to 2014, have totalled R643 million in damages.
The Crucial Infrastructure Protection Act
There are hopes that with President Cyril Ramaphosa having signed the Crucial Infrastructure Protection Act, acts of vandalism towards critical infrastructure are curbed.
The act aims to provide for measures to be put in place for the protection, safeguarding and resilience of critical infrastructures in the country. It also allows for decisive action to be taken against people who destroy critical infrastructures such as trains, buses and even copper cables.
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In a new book, the former Orland Pirates goalkeeper’s widow says those who warned the late player about the singer included a sangoma and his friend Mthoko Twala.
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Source: The South African