The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) on Tuesday emphatically denied any involvement in the spate of vandalism of Metrorail’s Western Cape infrastructure.
Insinuations that its members were involved in the recent sabotage of trains were not true, and it had complied with an interdict preventing its planned strike two weeks ago, Satawu Western Cape spokesperson, Luntu Sokutu, told News24.
Metrorail took legal action on April 6, the eve of the union’s planned strike to demand an end to outsourcing, the permanent employment of fixed-term contract workers, a salary alignment with workers in other provinces, and the removal of Metrorail’s regional manager Richard Walker. The union said he was incompetent.
While the union approached the labour courts to lift the interdict, Satawu was ordered to not take part in any action until April 20, Sokutu said.
The first arson attack at Cape Town station took place two days after the strike was supposed to start.
Closures and delays
On Friday morning, a train was set alight and four carriages were razed in Kraaifontein. Later that day, three carriages were set alight at the Esplanade Station.
Last weekend, two trains were set alight at Cape Town Station, resulting in the closure of platforms and delays.
Limited services were available to commuters on the central service area on Monday and there were delays and cancellations on the northern line due to vandalism and arson.
On Tuesday morning, Metrorail told commuters to make use of alternative transport due to “anticipated delays of 120+ minutes on all lines”.
This came after track circuits between Bonteheuwel and Netreg as well as Mandalay and Stock Road were damaged and apparatus cases burnt at Woodstock, Esplanade, and Mandalay in “a series of targeted attacks”.
Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant said the vandalism caused “major disruptions” and left tens of thousands of commuters without their usual mode of transportation on multiple occasions.
Acts of sabotage
Monday night’s vandalism had compounded “the already strained situation”.
“Their acts of sabotage against Metrorail are an attack on the state and its agents. The consequences for these acts must be in line with the severity of the crimes committed. This is the only way to deter would-be perpetrators,” Grant said.
He said it was suspected the latest vandalism was linked to an illegal strike linked to a wage and conditions of service dispute with Metrorail.
“There is absolutely no justification for such acts of economic sabotage that directly threaten the livelihoods and safety of others,” he said.
The provincial department was working with public transport service providers to mitigate the “disastrous effects of these acts of sabotage”, Grant added.[Source: News24]