A METRORAIL train en route to Vereeniging was burned on Tuesday night, pushing the damage suffered by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to more than R70m since the beginning of a strike by the fledgling National Transport Movement (NTM) trade union.
The union has been on strike since January 18 over the failure by Prasa, which runs Metrorail, to grant it collective bargaining and organisational rights within the agency.
The NTM has been battling for recognition within other state-owned companies such as South African Airways, where it went on strike claiming it had reached the 30% threshold required for it to enjoy collective bargaining rights.
Metrorail CEO Mosenngwa Mofi said the operator had lost 14 trains to vandalism since the strike began.
NTM president Ephraim Mphahlele said on Tuesday that the union was not involved in any illegal activities. "We dispute these unfounded allegations that the NTM has engaged in acts of sabotage and malicious damage to property."
Metrorail’s statements were "mischievous and provocative".
Mr Mphahlele said the trade union would be taking legal advice over Metrorail’s statements about the NTM, which he said was a "peaceful union".
Metrorail said in a statement that a pattern had emerged which showed the acts of arson were "well orchestrated" and that the "intelligence at our disposal has confirmed that these are planned activities".
On Tuesday, Metrorail opened a case of malicious damage to property against the leadership of the NTM. Metrorail further interdicted the union and its members against damaging its property and enforced a minimum 100m distance from its properties for picketers.
Metrorail said action by the NTM was motivated by desperation, because the NTM had not been able to attract more than 500 members of the total of 13,000 people employed at Prasa.
Mr Mphahlele said the NTM disputed those numbers.