Cable theft leaves Shosholoza high and dry in the Karoo

Kaveel singh, News24

Durban – Cable theft has reached such high levels that the crime has now prevented a major train network from working efficiently.

The Shosholoza Meyl was brought to a halt on Monday after an overhead cable was stolen, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) spokesperson Lesedi Mapheto has said.

The train came to a standstill in Nelspoort between Beaufort West and De Aar. Speaking to News24, Mapheto said trains travelling to both Cape Town and Johannesburg had to be stopped.

“This is a very opportunistic crime and makes it logistically difficult for us to work around. We have security teams in place but with over 2 000km of railway, this becomes challenging.”

Adele Ankiewicz, a passenger on the Shosholoza, took to Facebook after she was stuck “in the middle of the Karoo for over five hours”.

“Resources are running out slowly with only a finite amount of water. There was a little girl on the train who was sick throwing up all night. Not a single person, from the train driver to the manager has any idea how long we will still sit here as the temperature climbs and the water trickles out,” she wrote.

However, Mapheto said passengers were given the option of taking a bus to their destination.

After the cables were replaced, the passengers could finally be on their way again - this time without incident.

“We made a number of contingency plans, including having extra food, water and first aid for people who required it. While there may have been unwell individuals [on the train] we cannot predict this occurred because the train stopped," Mapheto said.

Regarding time taken for repairs, he said that was also out of their hands. "Sometimes engineers assess something, but alternate issues arise,” he said.

Mapheto said Prasa took the cable theft matter very seriously.

“It was not just one train that was halted. We also had others stopped. Think about it this way, if we are transporting coal to Eskom and cable theft stops our trains, a direct negative impact on our economy is made. We urge communities to join us in this fight and identify these [cable theft] culprits.”