Civil organisation UniteBehind coalition occupied Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) offices to demand a safe and efficient commuter rail service yesterday.
The group from different communities – with placards reading “Where is our rail safety plan? We are dying in trains” – staged a sit-in protest at the Transnet building offices, sharing their train experiences.
This was before they moved to the provincial ANC office to hand over a memorandum and to receive a reply to a letter the organisation sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa last week. Metrorail’s acting marketing and communication manager, Daphne Kayster, said: “We can confirm UniteBehind members gathered illegally at the Transnet building in Cape Town and a memorandum was handed to the regional manager of Metrorail, Richard Walker. “The memorandum will be forwarded to the Prasa group head for a response. Metrorail also confirms there have been engagements with the organisation and these will continue with all stakeholders in the interests of improving the rail service.” The demonstration comes after 17-year-old Zonnebloem Nest Senior School pupil Simo Maninginingi Kwepe was killed last Friday when he fell from a moving train between Salt River and Woodstock. He was allegedly trying to jump from one train to another. “Death, sexual violence, delays, line shutdowns, mismanagement, train crashes, fear, anxiety and pain are the daily lot of the working class across our country. “We refuse to accept this injustice any longer. “We demand that a national disaster be declared on commuter rail; we have been calling for this since last year. If a national disaster is declared, it will unlock government funds to stabilise a system that is in the midst of a crisis. “We demand that the minister appoint a permanent board at Prasa within six weeks and appoint a commuter representative to this board. We desperately need stable and ethical leadership if we are to #FixOurTrains,” the organisation said. They called on Ramaphosa to fulfil his commitment to meet commuters in Cape Town.