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Pretoria - A group of irate commuters on Wednesday accused Metrorail of neglecting its responsibilities and mismanaging the train service.
The protesters gathered outside the Bosman railway station in Pretoria, demanding an urgent improvement in the service.
Vusi Mahlangu, who studies law at the University of SA, said using the train was a “painful daily experience”.
“On a daily basis, we are late either for our studies or for tests. On behalf of all students, I am here to plead with Metrorail, please fix your timetable.
“We demand more trains and we demand clean and safe service. Most students are being made to fail by the poor service of Metrorail,” he said.
Metrorail regional operations manager Abram Nkgabutle received the protesters' memorandum. With several police officers flanking him he listened to the commuters’ grievances.
An elderly woman said the problem was exacerbated because Metrorail officials did not use the trains themselves, and did not understand how the service had deteriorated.
“You drive around in your (BMW) X5s. Take time and use a train one day. Some of us have used trains ever since you were not even born,” she said.
Another protester, Thabang Mothelo, wept as he addressed Nkgabutle about the “tribulations of train commuters”.
“It is a very painful experience when 6000 people are crammed into one train. A cousin of mine was injured in a train accident and only got R7500. She is now a cripple.
“I use a train because we don’t have a car. Sometimes we go to bed without eating at home. Government doesn’t care about us, the people who vote. We don’t have to fight to get what we want, don’t treat us like monkeys,” Mothelo said.
After handing over the memorandum, the protesters marched along Bosman street to the transport department's offices on Struben Street.
Earlier, a leader of the protesters, Reuben Rathelele, told journalists that train services had deteriorated over the years.
“We want them to improve on their service. We want to have toilets in the trains and we want Metrorail to curb overcrowding.
There is no security in the trains. Our people are being raped in the trains and theft is rampant.”
Rathelele said the trains were often not on time, causing many commuters to be late for work.
Rathelele said he was a branch chairman of the Pan Africanist Congress in Soshanguve. Some of the protesters wore green PAC T-shirts.
Police and Tshwane metro police officers escorted the protesters. Some bystanders used their cellphones to photograph the event.
A protester used a loudhailer to invite commuters to join the strike.
“Join the march, comrade. Come and join. Don't just complain,” he shouted.