Umlazi fires: Train commuters angry at lack of alternative transport - eyewitness

Train commuters who went on a rampage in Umlazi after trains arrived late on Friday morning were angry because they were not provided with alternative transport, a local resident said.

Linda Khumalo, a resident from J section in Umlazi, south of Durban, told News24 that four cars had already been torched when he arrived at the scene.

"I gathered from the scene that the commuters became angry when the trains did not arrive on time and they had not been provided with alternative transport," Khumalo said on Friday.

He said the commuters complained that they had to pay for minibus taxis to take them to work even though they had purchased tickets for the whole week.

"They complained that they get into trouble with their bosses at work when they arrive late. They also voiced their anger [about] not getting reimbursed when they end up not using their weekly tickets because of the late arrival of trains," said Khumalo.

Another resident, Armstrong Sandile Khuzwayo, said the situation flared up when a security guard started shooting as commuters complained.

"The people became violent and started burning cars," he said. This however, was not officially confirmed.

Khuzwayo claimed security guards manhandled him while he was walking near the Umlazi train station.

'They manhandled me'

"What they did was wrong because I was not even part of the commuters. But they came outside the station premises and manhandled me.

"They grabbed me and wanted to arrest me," he said.

He said the situation became volatile at the station while he was still asleep at around 04:00.

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) KZN spokesperson Zama Nomnganga confirmed the incident.

"Yes, the incident occurred in the early hours of this morning (Friday) and we are currently busy trying to sort things out," said Nomnganga.

He said he was still gathering more details about the incident.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane confirmed that the train commuters set four cars alight and damaged a ticket office and motor train coach.

Zwane said it was alleged that more than 1 000 commuters at Umlazi railway station became angry about late trains.

He said the incident occurred just after 06:00 and extensive damage was caused to the train station.

The Public Order Police Unit and eThekwini Metro Police were summoned to monitor the situation, he said.

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