Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. The United National Transport Union (Untu) said it was devastated and furious with the government after one of its members was gunned down while on duty allegedly by thugs. Picture supplied.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula. The United National Transport Union (Untu) said it was devastated and furious with the government after one of its members was gunned down while on duty allegedly by thugs. Picture supplied.

Untu furious with government after member gunned down at Prasa yard

By Dieketseng Maleke Time of article published May 4, 2021

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The United National Transport Union (Untu) said it was devastated and furious with the government after one of its members was gunned down while on duty.

The union said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) protection official that was shot dead was ironically one of the 3 100 new Prasa "armed response" members that were appointed after Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced his intelligence-driven new security plan seven months ago.

In a statement, general secretary of Untu Steve Harris said: "Another innocent life is lost while President Cyril Ramaphosa ignores Untu's repeated plea to deploy soldiers of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to patrol and safeguard our rail infrastructure. It is a war zone, and we are fighting a losing battle. How many more Prasa employees must pay the ultimate price?"

Harris added that although the security guards were called "armed response", the Prasa protection official and six of his colleagues were unarmed when they were deployed to patrol Prasa's Geldenhuys Staging Yard in Germiston.

According to Harris, the member was shot while patrolling the yard at about 1am on Tuesday.

Harris said their members told him that shots were fired at them when on duty at the yard almost daily any time of the day or night.

According to the union, Prasa’s yard was surrounded by fields and was without any lights at night.

“It is extremely dangerous to work at the yard as there is scrap metal lying about which the thugs want. Anyone deployed to patrol the yard without a firearm is a sitting duck,” said Harris.

In September last year, according to the union, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that Prasa’s new security plan would operate in conjunction with other law enforcement ministries and will also include the Hawks, the priority crime unit of the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority, the various metro police departments, and the Railway Safety Regulator.

The union said in March, Mbalula launched the People’s Responsibility to Protect Project (PR2P) of more than R100 million that saw the additional appointment of 9 860 community volunteers and 80 veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe deployed in 46 rail corridors nationwide.

“Despite all the efforts of the minister and the Department of Transport and the cost thereof to the South African taxpayer, the plan is not working when Prasa employees continue to die on duty. It is time for the president to show true leadership by taking control of this unsustainable situation and deploy the SANDF,” said Harris.

The union said it first made this call to Ramaphosa in March 2019 at its Section 77 application before the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

Last week Untu threatened to take Prasa to the Labour Court if the company does not confirm when it will pay a 5% wage increase.

The union said Prasa did not implement the second year of a multi-term collective agreement it signed at its bargaining forum in October last year.

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