The decision by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to terminate contracts of 20 private security companies at the end of October has left railway infrastructure vulnerable to vandalism, says the United National Transport Union (Untu).
In a statement on Friday by Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens, the union levels all manner of accusations at Prasa, saying “the leadership of Untu repeatedly warned the [Prasa] board that the decision [to terminate security contracts] exposed their staff and commuters and the assets of Prasa as the SA Police Service have never in the past came to the party.
“But the board disagreed and Untu told them the proof would be in the pudding.”
As the statement puts it, Untu has been inundated with videos of vandalism at various train stations across the country.
“Unfortunately, the result is massive damage to the infrastructure which is funded with taxpayers money and yet another devastating blow to Prasa employees who has to sit back and look at how their jobs are being placed at risk,” said Steve Harris, general secretary of Untu.
But, Prasa has hit back, saying they have already started deploying their own internal security personnel “while strategically planning with the rapid railway police and greater collaboration with other security partners”.
“Prasa can now report that the first tranche of deployments of the rapid railway police has been deployed in the Western Cape and Gauteng including law enforcement units and other security cluster divisions in the protection of commuters, staff and assets,” said spokesperson for the agency, Nana Zenani.
On the crackdown on the inexplicably high rate of crime bedeviling railway’s across the country, Prasa’s group CEO Dr Nkosinathi Sishi said: “We are bridging the gap between deploying our own security personnel and additional technology in ensuring that we remove the dependence on just personnel deployments.
“We will now be able to profile suspects and conduct the necessary investigations as well which was a strength we did not have previously.”