Mother Lays charges against PRASA

What was supposed to be a fun day out at the beach last month ended in tragedy for Shamese Abib’s family.

Her son Keeno, was travelling on the southern line from Steenberg to Muizenberg on Saturday, January 13. On the train, he was accosted by thugs wielding a gun and was forced to jump out an open door to escape them.

On Monday, February 19, with the assistance of Leslie van Minnen chairman of the Rail Commuter Action Group (RCAG), she opened a case against PRASA.

Ms Abib said she wanted justice for her son’s death. “I also want the safety of other commuters in the future. If I leave it this way how many other passengers will die? I want answers from PRASA and justice for everyone who has died and lives are still in danger every single day.

Ms Abib was also supported by members of #UniteBehind on the day. #Unite Behind members Zukiswa Vuka, Philani Gebu and Zoliswa Dlamini were there to show support. Organising Secretariat, Zackie Achmat, was also at the police station on the day.

The charge sheet includes; a breach of public law duty and obligation, which breach of said duties is wrongful in the delictual sense; failure to protect the victim’s constitutional rights; as well as a breach of legal duty to keep doors closed while the train is in motion.

Ms Abib said her whole family was affected by the poorly run service. She said her mother, who also lives in Steenberg, hasn’t been to Muizenberg beach in years because the trains are unsafe. “That train was our method of transport, she can’t come to the beach any longer because she doesn’t have a car. Other people must tell her what the beach looks like, that’s not right.

She said she believed it was important to keep fighting. “PRASA will see that we are serious, We pay for these services and they discard our lives. I will fight until the bitter end and I would like other people, who are victims of this crime, to join.”

The affidavit states: “his (Keeno’s) death was a direct result of gross criminal negligence of PRASA/Metrorail, a state-owned entity with the function of providing a commuter service to the public that is safe and reliably.

“The issue around the aspects of safety and security within the PRASA/Metrorail commuter environment has been tested in a number of courts including but not limited to the Constitutional Court. The findings of these honourable courts made it very clear that the responsibility of securing the safety of commuter passengers was and remains with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and its subsidiary, Metrorail.”

According to the Railway Safety Regulator Report, in 2016/17, there were 495 fatalities, 2079 injuries as well as 73 derailments or collisions of PRASA trains. Also, according to the Regional Manager of Security about 1000 of Western Cape security staff have criminal records; 80 % of staff are not registered with PSIRA; and key areas of the rail network are not fenced off. The Central line has also been out of service for two months due to vandalism.

In a submission to the Transport Portfolio Committee last week, #UniteBehind called for an urgent safety plan. Among the immediate steps required include the reopening of the security line with adequate security; security employed must be qualified by PSIRA; securing of stations and surrounds; separate compartments for women and children and commuters must be involved in the development of the plan.

Ms Abib also said that the poorly run service affected working-class people the most. “I was also working in town and many times the trains were delayed for two hours. People lose their jobs, children come late for school and they can’t even write their exams. I’ve got a 14-year old son who goes to Heathfield High.”

She said that because there are thugs at the stations, he rather choses to walk from Steenberg to Heathfield. “One of his friends got robbed on the way home. I cannot contact him because he can’t take his cell phone with because then he will be a target. Every single day I must pray for my child’s safety. This is what I suffer with on a daily basis because PRASA cannot render the services that we are paying for. “When I was small we would go to the Cape Botanical Gardens on the train for the day out. We can’t do that because it’s not safe, the thugs rule the trains.”