Two people have been arrested within hours of the murder of a train driver, whose death caused major train delays when his shocked colleagues downed tools, demanding safer working conditions.
The protest led to Metrorail promising to “flood the system” with security guards, according to the United National Transport Union (UNTU).
Police say one of the suspects was bust on Monday night, and the other on Tuesday morning.
Cops also confiscated a zip gun, and a revolver believed to be the murder weapon used to kill Pieter “Piet” Botha, 46, at Netreg Station on Monday just before 1pm.
The Malmesbury family man, who was on duty and was waiting for a train, was shot in the leg and stomach by robbers.
Police spokesperson Constable Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed the arrests.
“Detectives attached to Bishop Lavis SAPS followed up information and arrested a 22-year-old suspect for the murder and illegal possession of firearm [on Monday] night,” she says.
“[Yesterday] morning a 37-year-old suspect was arrested after police followed up information about a firearm that was possibly used in the murder that was kept in a house in Plumbago Street, Bishop Lavis.
“Police found a bag hidden under the bed in one of the rooms and arrested the suspect.”
Pieter’s death sparked a strike by UNTU drivers who downed tools and demanded that Metrorail and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa [Prasa] ensures their safety while on duty.
The strike led to two-hour train delays on Monday night which continued yesterday morning on some lines.
The union, Prasa and Metrorail management were locked in talks on Monday and yesterday morning, and came to an agreement in the afternoon.
UNTU’s Executive Councillor for the Western Cape, Brian Davids, says Metrorail committed to increasing security.
“They agreed to firstly flood the system with security, improve the visibility of that security and that the train drivers and guards will be escorted at turn-around stations, and that additional security will be posted at Netreg station where the incident occurred,” he says
“We have a follow-up meeting [this] morning and we are keeping a close eye on the developments.
“What happened on Monday was a tragedy, it’s still a bit sensitive on his [Pieter’s] family but we are planning on visiting them [today].
“And we welcome the arrest of the two people. Mr Botha was a committed man who worked as a train driver for many years, he was a people’s person and will be sorely missed.”
Metrorail’s Regional Manager, Richard Walker, condemned the crime.
“The motive was robbery; his possessions were taken from him [but] the loss of this life should not be in vain, from it we should see to it that services continue,” he says.
“After discussions with union we have agreed to supply extra security to affected names. But it’s difficult to secure each train; we only have so much support.”
Walker says more security guards have been deployed to “hot spots” on the central corridor which include Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.
Luntu Sokutu from the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union says while they welcomed Metrorail’s swift action, it leaves a bitter taste for commuters who have also been victims of crime.
“It is unfortunate that management now only decides to stand up and do something once a driver has died, after so many other commuters have been injured and sometimes killed,” Luntu says.
“But this is something we have been raising as a union from the onset of our strike; safety is a problem that Metrorail has not been too concerned with.”