File picture: David Ritchie/Cape Argus
Johannesburg - A female Metrorail access controller, who was pushed to the ground by a group of free riders, is nursing a broken arm and bruises. 

The 37-year-old staffer was trying to prevent the rowdy group of seven from leaving the Benoni station without paying for their ride on Tuesday when she was pushed to the ground. 

"I am humiliated. I am sore. I fell on my stomach with my left hand underneath me, after a lady started to pull and push me with six men helping her," said Nonny Tladi, a member of the United National Transport Union (Untu). 

"This happened at 07:00 Tuesday morning. It would not have happened had there been a security guard on duty with me at the access gate. It would also not have happened if there was one of the so-called rapid rail police officials in sight."  

Tladi said she has been employed by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) since 2012. "I am the mother of three minor children. I want to see them grow up. This is the first time that I have been attacked, but once before I was threatened with a knife," said the injured rail staffer. 

"It is dangerous to work on the trains. Unfortunately, there are people using the trains that feel nothing for the lives of others." 

Now Tladi's union has taken up the matter and is speaking on her behalf. Untu insists it is Prasa's responsibility to make Tladi's work environment safe. 

On Wednesday, acting Untu general-secretary, Eddie de Klerk, said his union had submitted its application to the Western Cape High Court for a court order to force Prasa to fulfil its obligation around employee safety. 

The union wants the court to compel Prasa to improve safety on the notorious central line between Cape Town and Langa in the Western Cape. 

Untu said this demand was in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Labour Relations Act and the Constitution. Untu said it asked the court to direct Prasa to establish an armed mobile reaction unit where members would be stationed at Netreg, Mitchells Plain and Chris Hani stations. 

The union said it also asked the court to order Prasa to establish a joint task team comprised of the union, other representative unions and the police to develop a long-term strategy for commuter safety in Prasa. 

De Klerk said if Untu succeeded with this application it will have a strategic effect on Prasa to drastically improve the security at all its premises in the rest of the country.

"The Union applied that the application must be granted an expedited court date due to the frequency of incidents on the central line, in the rest of the Western Cape, in Durban and the surrounding areas of KwaZulu-Natal and in the surrounding areas of Johannesburg in Gauteng," said De Klerk. 

Metrorail management could not be immediately reached for comment. 

African News Agency