Blaming vandalism and theft for the closure of major Cape Town commuter line is disingenuous
Imagine your bank leaves cash lying about in its branches. The doors are unlocked at night. The safes don’t work. The bank does spend billions of rands on security, but it hires incompetent fly-by-night security companies run by mates of the bank’s management. The executives skim a huge percentage for themselves off every deal the bank signs.
Not every bank employee is corrupt. The head of security, for example, writes a memo describing how the bank’s branches are being left unguarded. He desperately pleads for something to be done, but he is ignored.
Every night people go into the branches and steal everything they can. The thieves hardly ever get caught, because there’s hardly any security and the police have little interest in stopping the theft. It’s even rumoured, though not proven, that the bank’s bosses are in on the theft.
The few security guards who are there trying to do their job are untrained, unarmed, and often hide in a corner when armed thieves come in.
Then one day the bank sends a letter late at night to its customers saying it has had to close because of “months of sustained vandalism, theft and destruction of critical infrastructure”. But the real reason the bank has had to close is because of the executive’s incompetence and venality: management has failed to secure the branches.
On Sunday night Metrorail released a statement that its Central line in Cape Town has been suspended until further notice. This is the line that takes working people in Khayelitsha to their jobs in the city centre. They are now all but stranded. No replacement buses have been offered. The bus and taxi infrastructure is unlikely to be able to cope with the massive increase in commuters. Many people have paid for monthly tickets and will not have the money to get to work.
“The drastic measure comes in the wake of months of sustained vandalism, cable theft and destruction of critical infrastructure in the Bonteheuwel - Netreg - Nyanga area having reached a stage where no further service is possible,” reads the Metrorail statement. This is disingenuous. Indeed, this area known as the Bonteheuwel Split has been stripped bare by thieves. But the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which owns Metrorail, is entirely at fault for it.
Like our hypothetical bank, this area has been left unguarded. Like the bank, the head of security in the Western Cape warned his bosses and pleaded with them to take clearly described measures to fix the problem. Like our bank, PRASA’s executive, especially under former CEO Lucky Montana and former chair of the board Sfiso Buthelezi (subsequently made Deputy Minister of Finance), has through grand-scale corruption and incompetence allowed this to happen. Security has been one of the biggest casualties of this state capture, with huge contracts being awarded irregularly to fly-by-night companies.
The plunder hasn’t ended. Last week PRASA’s board, in dubious circumstances, appointed a CEO of questionable standing. We will report more about this in the coming days.
The consequences are that lives are lost and commuters endure a daily hell.
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Why does Metro not clean up their act? If they ran the early and late commuter trains at their usual rates and ran cleaner non graffiti trains on the beautiful Simons Town run for the tourist trade at slightly inflated prices later in the day, surely they could afford to clean up gangs and have security for all the trains.
The brand new train on that line last year looks worse than the old ones. Just very bad management. Millions of unemployed but the top brass just too lazy to do any good for their country and countrymen.
As a daily commuter on the Northern line in Cape Town I agree 100% with this article.
Unfortunately the circumstances are actually much worse than described. Our daily lives are stolen from us as we have to be on a train by 5am to ensure that we are in time for work at 8am. The later trains are often late or cancelled and has left us stranded too many times.
Then in the afternoon we get on a train at 5:15pm and arrive home 7:30pm if we are lucky. Most nights we are not even in time to buy bread and milk for the house as shops close at 8pm. I was warned about late-coming and absenteeism which is 100% out of my control.
So people then ask why we don't use the bus service?
Golden Arrow's service to our area is limited and the last bus home is too early for our working hours. We don't have MyCity to our area and a Taxi is just too expensive. I am asking Metrorail, Prasa, City of Cape Town, Police, Our dearest President .... Please help.
This situation was completely preventable. I realise it will take a long time to turn this ship around. But please just start doing something. Something visible to us, a very despondent commuter who is dependent on a neglected and badly managed system. Stop talking and start doing.
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