In its first three months of operation the new Rail Enforcement Unit has already proved that the battle against copper thieves and vandals can be won.
In the past 12 months the value of damage to the Metro Rail system was R107.7m but in the three months from November last year to February this year the amount of damage sustained was zero, according to a joint report by Metrorail, the City of Cape Town and the Provincial Government.
This is due to the co-operation between all three organisations and private security. When we all work together we can win this battle and save Cape Town’s vital rail system.
In fact, the joint effort gained ground as the value of goods recovered during the three months was greater than the value of goods stolen with the losses due to theft amounting to R858 000 while the value of goods recovered was more than R2.6m.
It is successes like this which turn the tide. We have a long way to go but the knowledge that security staff are making a difference will give them more confidence and that, in turn, will improve their performance.
The next step in the battle is to make the work of the enforcement units more visible as this will help to regain the confidence of the commuters.
There have been many arrests and even jailings, but I would like to see community service being used. In particular, vandals could be sentenced to wash and clean carriages and to remove or paint out graffiti.
This would be a form of restorative justice.
The battles won so far are small ones while the big problem of copper theft continues. It is estimated that between 200 and 300 containers of scrap metal are exported every month. The question we must ask is: Why? Copper is a valuable resource and we could use it in our own electronics industries and in the manufacture of solar water heaters.
The world demand for copper scrap is insatiable and until South Africa is able to stop the export of mostly stolen products the incentive to vandalise and steal will continue.
President of the Cape Chamber