Train burning suspect appears in court

A suspect appeared in the Cape Town Magistrates Court on charges of malicious damage to property.

A 30-year-old man from Khayelitsha was due to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Wednesday April 24 on charges of malicious damage to property after the recent torching of train carriages at Cape Town train station.

The suspect was apprehended by Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) security and handed over to police after he was suspected to be one of the people identified in CCTV footage taken at Cape Town station, where Metrorail coaches were gutted by fire on platforms 13 and 14 on Sunday April 21.

Twelve coaches were destroyed; two motor coaches and 10 carriages resulting in an estimated damage of R33 million.

Prasa group chief executive, Nkosinathi Sishi, welcomed the swift action by law enforcement agencies.

Mr Sishi said they hoped the arrest would lead to the actual forces behind the sustained destruction of assets, “particularly the only mode of transport that is affordable to the majority of our people.

“The sinister forces are not going to deter Prasa from its programme of rolling out a dignified service that will ensure that rail returns to its former glory and re-attains its position as a mode of choice for the daily commuters,” Mr Sishi said.

Mayor Dan Plato also welcomed the arrest and said that despite the many incidents of railway arson over the past two years, authorities had enjoyed very limited success in arresting those responsible for the crippling attacks on the backbone of the public transport system.

“I hope that the law will take its course and that the appropriate punishment will be meted out. If there are more suspects linked to this act, we hope they are caught and prosecuted as a matter of urgency.”

He said incidents of arson and destruction of public infrastructure in general were serious criminal acts and had a substantial negative impact on the economy.

“More than 40 carriages have been burnt in 10 incidents of arson since 2017 Cape Town station alone has been the target of eight separate arson incidents since July 2018.”

Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said they hoped the arrest would be the first step towards a successful prosecution to set an example to those who destroyed trains.

Mr Smith said the selfish and senseless destruction of public transport infrastructure takes away the only means of transport for thousands of residents.

– Cape Argus