Union wants train vandals to b

Martin Cathrae/ Flickr

Union wants train vandals to be treated like ‘murderers and rapists’, demands life sentences for offenders

30-year jail terms proposed for those destroying railway property

Union wants train vandals to b

Martin Cathrae/ Flickr

Following a spate of crimes against rail infrastructure, the General Secretary of United National Transport Union (UNTU) has called for life sentences for those involved.

Steve Harris made the comments as another act of vandalism caused delays on the Cape Town Metrorail on Monday, one of the city’s busiest commuter routes. Harris vented his frustrations:

“UNTU has no choice but to demand from the legislature to impose life imprisonment for these crimes – similar to that imposed for offences of premeditated murder, gang rape, serial rape and treason. The situation has completely gotten out of hand. Our railway lines have become a war zone, but our criminal justice system simply turns a blind eye.”

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The rhetoric may seem like an incredible reaction, but the union’s General Secretary knows how dangerous cable theft and destruction of railway property can be.

In March, sleepers were stolen from the tracks between Cullinan and Pretoria, leaving nearly 500 people stranded. On Saturday, a train on the Machadodorp and Carolina line was derailed as a result of track theft.

Eventually, these petty crimes have a very real, human cost: Just two weeks ago, two Metrorail trains collided near Elandsfontein in Gauteng, killing one commuter and injuring 50. Cable theft was the major reason this incident occurred.

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UNTU are at the end of their tether with the constant threats to passenger safety and the damage being caused to the economy. They have already approached magistrates to propose a maximum sentence of 30 years for the vandals, but the response has been tepid.

After Monday’s incident, Metrorail declared they are down by 66 coaches since March 2016, which has decimated the number of services they can provide and has severely affected performance efficiency.