THE Surface and Marine Transportation Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) has expressed deep concern over acts of vandalism on Tanzania-Zambia Railways Authority (Tazara) installations.
They include recent acts of sabotage on four bridges in Mbeya Region. “Our staff discovered such acts of sabotage while carrying out regular checks on all the installations along the line in Mbeya Region to ensure they met safety standards,’’ said Engineer Dr Michael Kisaka.
In one of its regular checks recently, the Sumatra team stumbled upon a bridge whose membrane and their reinforcements had been removed, according to Dr Kisaka.
Following such a revelation, the ‘Sunday News’ embarked on an extensive investigation to establish the root cause of such vandalism.
According to impeccable sources, the motive behind such destruction of public infrastructure, including road signs, was the demand for scrap metal by backyard dealers. Some sources said that the only way to curb such acts is for the government to ban the scrap metal business or else regulate it.
Dr Kisaka called on the media to join in the campaign against vandalism in the country. “We are confident that through the media, we can jointly create awareness on the need for the public to protect these infrastructures,” he said.
He was confident that the media can also create a public agenda on vandalism to sensitise the public, including the decision makers and policy makers, and make the campaign sustainable as they have both the space and expertise to do so.
Dr Kisaka condemned such acts as they served to undermine Tazara operations and travel along the railway line. Meanwhile, outgoing Mbeya Regional Police Commander, Mr Ahmed Msangi, told the ‘Sunday News’ that it was true that the bridges, which were installed with side-walks for pedestrians along the railway line, had been completely damaged and materials stolen.
It is understood that the police force has made some arrests and all the suspects prosecuted. “We have also reinforced security patrols in those areas that our vehicles can access, leaving it to Tazara authorities to deploy guards where we cannot reach,” he reported.
Mr Msangi also said that the police had gone further by intervening in rampant soil excavation near the railway line by illegal prospectors, which could have led to the infrastructure being washed away during the rains. “Such activities are dangerous since they can cause bridges to collapse,” he pointed out.
The RPC said that community policing was being used to reach out to such communities living near the infrastructure and educating them on the need to protect them. “All these communities know for sure that the railway line is a lifeline for them as they depend on it for all sorts of activities, hence the need to protect it. However, they need to be reminded now and then,” he stressed.
In another development, Tazara officials have confirmed that they have reinforced security in all the spots where bridges are vulnerable to vandalism. “We have already deployed several security guards in all those spots which are notorious for vandalism,” he said.
Speaking to this newpaper, an official said that out of the four bridges, which were damaged, three have been repaired while repair work for the remaining one will be completed soon.
However, regarding the outreach programme supported by SUMATRA, its Mbeyabased representative, Mr Denis Daudi, confirmed that regional authorities have vowed to curb such crime with TAZARA.
He also said that the police force has intensified patrols and investigation to arrest the culprits, which has so far been successful. Mr Daudi further said that Sumatra, through its outreach programme, has been able to offer public education on the importance of communities owning these infrastructures.