City of Cape Town: Declare ‘state of emergency’ over railway attacks

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The City of Cape Town has requested Transport Minister Blade Nzimande to declare a state of emergency, over recent attacks and sabotage afflicting to local train service.

A horrific attack on train passengers

This plea comes in the wake of a horrific attack on MetroRail passengers travelling in the Stellenbosch area last Friday. As reported by News24, the violent attack left one man dead and eight others seriously injured; one victim in a critical condition, with a knife blade embedded in his skull.

According to reports, the train was travelling between Lynedoch and Eerste River, when a gang of five men began robbing passengers. The robbery spiralled out of control, with commuters being thrown off the train by the assailants.

This latest attack is just one of many reported daily by MetroRail commuters.

City of Cape Town begs for national assistance

Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron released a statement on Sunday, calling for the local railway system to be declared a ‘state of emergency’, stating:

“I am shocked beyond words by the horrific details of this latest attack. Cape Town’s rail commuters, who are among the most vulnerable in our society, are facing an onslaught of violence on a daily basis.

I requested the minister to declare a state of emergency or disaster in so far as the rail service in Cape Town is concerned. “

I did this so that the National Government can deploy additional resources to investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible for the ongoing attacks and sabotage and to assist us to turn this service around and prevent it from total collapse.”

Herron went on to explain the importance of protecting the City’s rail infrastructure and its commuters from brazen attacks, saying:

“Urban rail is the backbone of public transport in Cape Town. Thousands of commuters are relying on the service to get to work. The majority of these commuters are from low-income households and cannot afford other modes of public transport.”

Prasa condemns attacks

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), which has been embroiled in its own controversy regarding safety permits, condemned Friday’s attack. Prasa board chairperson Khanyisile Kweyama issued a statement which said:

“This callous act by fellow citizens on defenceless and innocent passengers, who in the main are the poorest of the poor, is indicative of a wounded nation.

This sudden shift to attacking innocent citizens, who are soft targets, is unbearable and is condemned with the strongest terms.”

Arson attacks bring MetroRail to its knees

Cape Town’s rail transport service is on the verge of collapse due to an increase in arson attacks. In the last three years, MetroRail has lost over 150 carriages to arson and vandalism, with damages caused by the most recent two attacks in July exceeding R50 million.

The railway operator has been left with only 50 functioning trains – it says it needs 33 more to run an efficient service.

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