The evacuation of roads agency Sanral’s central operations centre in Centurion on Friday, for the second time this week, was concerning, said CEO Nazir Alli.
“Sanral is extremely worried about the impact this kind of behaviour is having on the people who work at the centre,” he said in a statement.
“Most of them are first-time workers and relatively young. Whoever is not happy about a government policy has appropriate channels to express their dissatisfaction.”
Earlier on Friday, Sanral said its system was not affected by the evacuation. “Another incident has occurred at the central operations centre this afternoon. It should be noted that the system is fully operational and that only the call centre services are affected,” it said in a statement.
Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), whose staff occupy the building, said on Friday the white powder found in the mailbox at the centre was not dangerous.
“Response management has been optimised and we can confirm that the substance has been tested and it has been concluded that it is not harmful,” ETC CEO Jamie Surkont said.
He said the building was evacuated as a precautionary measure. It was not known what the powder was. It was found in the mailbox at the office.
Gauteng police said two people had to be quarantined after another anthrax scare at the operations centre.
“The Sanral offices were evacuated after an anthrax scare and we have specialists on the scene to see if the white powder found was anthrax,” said Lt-Col Katlego Mogale. “Two people have been quarantined and taken to hospital.”
Mogale said more details were not available.
On Tuesday, Sanral said the Gauteng highway tolling system was disrupted when Sanral’s operations centre in Pretoria had to be evacuated.
The Tshwane hazardous material unit was called to the centre on Monday afternoon after a “suspicious envelope containing a white substance” was found on the premises.
This resulted in the shutdown of electricity and the evacuation of the building.
Spokesman Vusi Mona said at the time that Sanral took the matter seriously and condemned this type of action because it was “tantamount to sabotage and borders on a very serious crime”.
On Wednesday, Sanral said the substance found in the envelope was not dangerous.
Thirty-seven people were decontaminated and hospitalised as a precaution. All of them had been discharged by Wednesday morning.
Alli said it was a callous person who engaged in such activities, and groups that incited lawlessness and encouraged such cruel acts should be aware of the consequences of their actions.
“We appeal to people’s sense of citizenship. Yes, citizens are active and entitled to dissent within the context of a constitutional democracy,” he said. “Those who have chosen to show their dissent by sending these powdery substances to our centre are showing an unfortunate conception of citizenship.”
Alli said those responsible should pause and reflect on whether they would wish their own family to be subjected to the anxiety and fear caused to the employees at the centre.
It was also unfortunate that every time there was such an incident, public resources had to be deployed and possibly diverted from areas where they could be needed. — Sapa