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The hefty sentence imposed on a convicted cable thief yesterday in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court is a victory for our rail commuters who often experience delays due to vandalism and theft of Metrorail assets. It is the first time that we have seen the Criminal Matters Amendment Act applied with success in the Western Cape, and I want to commend Metrorail, the South African Police Service, the prosecutors, and all other partners for their hard work.

I have said before that the ongoing targeting of our public transport infrastructure and operators requires special attention from our justice cluster.

The Criminal Matters Amendment Act provides for stricter bail conditions and harsher sentences, including up to 30 years’ imprisonment, for those caught and convicted of destruction of essential infrastructure. The act has been in operation for two years. It is intended as a deterrent against attacks on essential infrastructure, and for the first time in the Western Cape we have seen a perpetrator apprehended, successfully prosecuted and convicted under the act.

As we welcome the conviction and the subsequent 15-year prison sentence imposed on a cable thief, I am also saddened and horrified by the recent attack on a bus driver employed by the Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS). The bus driver was shot six times just before entering the bus depot in Philippi at approximately 19:30 last night, 7 June 2018.

He is currently fighting for his life.

Our public transport services are sabotaged and undermined on a regular basis. The safety of our commuters and personnel is compromised, our assets are stolen and damaged and must be replaced and repaired at great cost.

We recently signed an agreement with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and the Western Cape Provincial Government to train and jointly fund a dedicated enforcement unit to focus on the safety and security of Metrorail commuters and infrastructure.

This unit will assist Metrorail, the South African Police Service, and other role-players, and I am eager to see the unit fully operational within the next two months. I am confident that this initiative will go a long way in fighting the onslaught we are facing.

In recent times we have seen Metrorail trains, GABS buses, MyCiTi buses and stations destroyed and damaged in attacks that more often than not have nothing to do with transportation. Our transport infrastructure has become an easy target. Those responsible need to face certain prosecution and conviction if we are to save the transport infrastructure we have from total destruction.

The public and all of Cape Town must support us in protecting our assets – most importantly the personnel who are the backbone of our transport services; and secondly, the resources that make these services possible, such as our buses, stations and bus shelters.

I am urging anyone with information that will assist us to protect commuters and our public transport assets to please contact their nearest police station. The public can also report vandalism and other important information to the City’s Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63.

All of our residents must join us in condemning the violent attacks. It is the communities who are dependent on public transport for their mobility who suffer the most.

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