Police unable to stop train arson attacks - Ombud

Western Cape MEC for Community Safety Albert Fritz requested an investigation following a spate of attacks on railway infrastructure in the province.

FILE: Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula visited Cape Town Train Station on 28 November 2019 after 18 train carriages were destroyed in a fire. Picture: @MbalulaFikile/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Police Ombudsman has found the SAPS was unable to prevent arson attacks on trains.

MEC for Community Safety Albert Fritz requested an investigation following a spate of attacks on railway infrastructure in the province. Most of them happened in Cape Town. He wanted to know why police couldn't prevent them.

The request was made last November.

Since 2015, more than 140 carriages have been destroyed in the province.

The Ombud found police had only able been to arrest juvenile suspects so far, with no link yet to any adults or organised groups. No motive has been established.

The Ombud's investigation involved interviews with officials from the police service, City of Cape Town and Prasa.

Fritz said a respondent testified that prior to 1986, there were more than 6,000 railway police members and 2,800 reservists.

By 2010 those numbers had dropped.

In the Ombudsman's findings, it's noted SAPS management and Prasa must have realised there were some inefficiencies in railway policing when they signed a memorandum of understanding last year. The memo was only inked after 39 trains were gutted and two people killed.

One of the recommendations is that the provincial commissioner should implement appropriate steps to address the inefficiencies.