Suburban trains used to run on time. Mostly. Now it’s as if they are routinely sabotaged according to a timetable: "The 7.43 due to arrive on platform 4 is on fire again …" This year in the Western Cape alone 47 coaches have been destroyed by arson. Since 2015, the total is more than 150 coaches — the equivalent of at least 20 trains, worth hundreds of millions of rands. In KwaZulu-Natal, all train services were suspended last week because the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) said it feared for the safety of staff and commuters.This is public arson on a grand scale: sustained, flagrant and widespread. Who is doing it? There is a theory that the ANC is somehow orchestrating the attacks on Cape Flats trains, to undermine the province’s DA government. But that would not stand up in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, where coaches are also regularly set on fire but where the ANC is the governing party.These acts can hardly all be on the spur of the moment — though the arson does seem to coin...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now