Angry commuters in South Africa have set two trains alight and looted shops in protest at lengthy delays at Cape Town's central train station.

The incident occurred on Monday evening (12 June). Passengers became increasingly angry over delays, which national rail service Metrorail attributed to an electrical fault that occurred earlier in the afternoon, local media said.

After setting the trains on fire, protesters littered the station concourse with glass and broken dustbins and went on a looting rampage in the area.

"Hundreds of irate customers converged at Cape Town Station and some shops were damaged and looted," Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott was quoted by News24 as saying.

Firefighters were called to the scene to douse the fire and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the station.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters that were trying to loot a KFC and a McDonald's fast food restaurant nearby.

Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker apologised to customers, but condemned the violence.

"We acknowledge that commuters were aggrieved, but no amount of inconvenience warrants such behaviour, he said.

Authroities will study CCTV footage to open an investigation into malicious damage to property.

The arson incident resulted in severe delays on Tuesday (13 June), EyeWitness News reported.

It occurred just weeks after President Jacob Zuma urged citizens not to vandalise trains. The head of state made the plea at the inauguration of new Metrorail passenger trains, known as the "People's Train", in South Africa's administrative capital Pretoria.

"We have experienced shocking incidents in this country where people burn trains because they arrived late at the station and made them late for work. That is too drastic and is totally unacceptable,"Zuma was quoted by local media as saying.

"As we hand over such infrastructure, we appeal to our people to handle it with care. These are your trains. Look after them so that they can carry you for many years to come," he continued.