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JOHANNESBURG: Two sisters have vowed never to use the Gautrain again after they were allegedly detained for hours, questioned by the police and fined R700 for chewing gum at the station.
The sisters, one of whom was excited at the prospect of riding in the train for the first time last Friday, said they had been unaware chewing gum was not allowed on the Gautrain. They said they were prevented from boarding the train and taken to a security office, where they were held against their will for about four hours and released after signing a R700 penalty.
They said no one wanted to listen to them all this time.
Pontso Pakkies said they had decided to experience the Gautrain together just before her sister Lebo Sibisi went back home to Durban after a short visit last week.
Sibisi is passionate about trains as her husband works with them and had just returned from a two-week holiday in Europe, where she and her husband had mostly travelled in trains.
Just after lunch at the Rosebank Mall, the two sisters had chewed gum to clear their breath before heading home to Pretoria, they said.
While waiting for the train,
Pakkies said, a security guard had approached them and told them to get rid of their gum.
They asked him why.
“Unfortunately, there was a language barrier, as we spoke isiZulu and English to the guard. He struggled to understand.”
The sisters called another guard. Pakkies claimed they had wrapped the gum in tissues and placed it in their bags as there was no bin nearby after the second guard’s explanation.
But just as the train approached, one of the security managers had told them not to board, she said.
“He said we refused to throw away the gum and he was going to fine us... he would not hear any of our explanations.”
Pakkies said they were detained for four hours in a room that had no cellphone reception, were not allowed to go to the toilet or to go outside to make a call to their families, who were worried about where they were. She said police were also called. Three armed officers arrived, one in a bulletproof vest. But after an hour, the officers had left.
When she was eventually accompanied outside by a security manager and another guard to make a call after two hours, Pakkies said she had seen a white man drink Coke.
“This to me clearly showed that the system is extremely unfair and the staff of Gautrain are poorly trained.
We did not know about this rule and when we asked for clarity, we were treated violently, threatened, manipulated and intimidated.”
They were released after they had agreed to pay the fine. They intend to appeal.
Gautrain operating company, Bombela Concession Company, said rules in its trains, stations and buses were to ensure the highest standards of safety, cleanliness and efficiency.