#UniteBehind Media Statement: Protest for safety on trains at Cape Town station.
#UniteBehind members and activists from across the city will gather at Cape Town station on Friday August 23 from 2pm for a peaceful protest to demand commuter safety on PRASA trains.
Commuters face perilous journeys on a daily basis just to get to work and school on time. The most affected are women who get sexually harassed, as well as learners, who sometimes get pushed out of trains due to overcrowding.
In their 2017/18 report, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) showed that a total number of 4 478 incidents were reported in the railway environment across all categories. The true number of incidents that take place on trains is probably much higher than that due to no proper reporting mechanisms being in place, especially for reporting crimes such as sexual harassment. PRASA still don’t have a commuter-centre safety plan but instead seem to be more focussed on securing assets.
Tragic deaths often occur on trains due to overcrowding, failing infrastructure and violent crime. Women and girls are routinely harassed and sexually assaulted with no protection or recourse. The systemic delays and cancellations inflict untold misery on commuters. Workers lose jobs and face threats of dismissal, whilst small businesses are crippled by absenteeism and late- coming. Learners lose time at school and at home using a service that is unreliable and unsafe. This is a result of fraudulent security contracts and more than a decade of corruption at PRASA where at least R24 billion has been stolen.
Just this week there have been delays of more than two hours across the region due to infrastructure problems in Cape Town. This has left commuters stranded and scrambling for alternative transport.
Earlier this month, Minister Mbalula opened his PRASA “war room”. While a national rail disaster management centre with clear and extensive powers under the law is necessary, in this “war room” there is no clear plan and there has been no proper consultation with commuters. There is still no permanent Board and there are still 15 Acting-Executives, something the Minister said he would solve in his first 100 days.
In the run up to the elections in May, a lot of promises were made about the trains and that things would get better by the President and the Minister of Transport. We were promised everything, from shiny new blue trains to bullet trains. Yet commuters still suffer on a daily basis. We urge Minister Mbalula to take action that will protect women and children from being sexually harassed on the trains on a daily basis.
We demand qualified and properly trained security guards on trains and at the train stations, operating on legitimate contracts. We need basic security infrastructure. There needs to be security in the trains and at every station. There need to be accessible reporting mechanisms for commuters who are victims of crime, and particularly sexual harassment on trains.
We reiterate our demands that commuter rail be declared a national disaster. This would allow the government to unlock funds and resources to focus on safety on trains. We continue our call for a commuter-centred safety plan from PRASA that is long overdue.
Enough is enough, #FixOurTrains.
#UniteBehind is a coalition of people’s movements joined by legal, policy and research organisations working for a just and equal society where the people share in the country’s wealth and our environment is protected for future generations.