Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has launched a new security plan for the embattled Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in a bid to root out vandals and criminals who have been “revenging” the rail network of critical infrastructure. 

Mbalula announced that the Prasa Security Plan is the result of discussions between himself and several of his ministerial counterparts, and said that the aim of the strategy is to bring criminals to justice through intelligence driven security drives. 

Prasa crime has ‘reached alarming levels’ – Mbalula

Speaking at the Rhodesfield MetroRail Station, Mbalula said that the thieving of Prasa’s cables and rail infrastructure, as well as acts of arson and criminality at stations around the country, has got to come to an end. 

“The prevalence of crime in our rail environment has reached alarming levels,” he said. “Theft and vandalism of critical infrastructure… this has dire consequences not only on those who use the rail services, but also on our economy.”

He said that the acts of criminality that have motivated him to compile a renewed plan of action have been “amplified and accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic”, and also charged that Prasa officials have a lot to answer for when it comes to facilitating crime in the past. 

“Criminals have been in charge here at Prasa. Criminals have been aided by employees on the inside,” he said. 

“It would be incorrect to say that criminals and syndicates who have been vandalising this property have been acting on their own.” 

‘Prasa criminality hurts the country’s most vulnerable’ – Mbalula

Mbalula said that his vision for a “reliable, safe and affordable” rail service has been undermined by criminals, and that ordinary citizens are suffering as a result.  

“When a cable is stolen resulting in delays, the worker who loses their job could be a parent or a sibling. When track is stolen resulting in derailment, the commuter who loses their life may be a relative. When stations are vandalised and burnt down resulting in the shutdown of the line, the people who suffer the consequences are the poor who cannot afford the more expensive taxis and busses to get to work.”

“Have we become a society of heartless criminals, who have no regard for human life or the lives of those who live from hand to mouth?”

He said that police and crime intelligence, as well as prosecuting authorities, have been absent from discussions around the issue for too long, and that the new strategy had prioritised unity among these various departments.

Mbalula said that the Integrated Security Plan was configured along with Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, Police Minister Bheki Cele, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shamila Batohi. 

Five-pillar Security Plan outlined: 

The plan consists of five pillars that Mbalula hope will stem the vandalism of crucial infrastructure: 

  1. Intelligence gathering, analysis and coordination;
  2. Proactive approach;
  3. Combat approach; 
  4. Reactive approach through detection;
  5. Communication and liaison. 

“This is an intelligence driven plan that will enable us to find these criminals wherever they hide, in their homes, in their communities, in their workplaces,” he said. 

“We have no doubt that our interventions will break the back of organised crime syndicates and bring the perpetrators to book.” 

Prasa welcome new security strategy  

This plan follows the insourcing of 3 100 Prasa security guards, and Mbalula said that the presence of South African Police Service (SAPS) members at identified hotspots will also be increased, with commuters told to expect better surveillance around all train stations.

Prasa Accounting Authority, Badisa Matshego, said that the collaborative work between Prasa and the SAPS is already starting to pay off. 

“Amongst other efforts that we wish to showcase, is that Prasa Protection Services have been working closely with the SAPS and arrests have been ramped up in the past few months.”

“The intent is to combat this scourge across the entire ecosystem, from thieves to enablers, collectively called criminals.” 

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Presh JM Reporter

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