Union points finger at Prasa after angry KZN commuters assault Metrorail train driver

2020-02-18 19:33
The United National Transport Union has accused PRASA of failing to keep its employees safe, after a train driver was stoned by angry commuters. (Tariro Washinyira, GroundUp)

The United National Transport Union has accused PRASA of failing to keep its employees safe, after a train driver was stoned by angry commuters. (Tariro Washinyira, GroundUp)

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The United National Transport Union (UNTU) has accused the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) of failing to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for its employees after a train driver was stoned while on duty, GroundUp reports.

According to a statement released by UNTU, Nonhlanhla Dlamini was the driver of a train from Durban to KwaDukuza on Tuesday when commuters asked her to stop. She said she refused and went on to the usual stop at Briardene Station. Furious commuters then surrounded the cabin and stoned her.

Dlamini said she tried to hide inside the train cabin but was hit on the head and ear by stones. She was treated in hospital for her injuries.

"I used to love my job. But it has become so dangerous that I don't know if I will return home alive to see my children," Dlamini said, according to the UNTU statement.

"It is also not the first time this has happened to me. For me and other Prasa employees, assault has become a daily occurrence."

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UNTU spokesperson Sonja Carstens told GroundUp the incident happened "very early in the morning, around 06:00".

"Just speaking to her [Dlamini], this was horrific and terrifying. She used to love her job but now when she goes to work, she wonders whether she will ever return home," said Carstens.

She said UNTU routinely warned train crews that commuters often believed they were responsible for train delays.

"In this case, they wanted her to stop unauthorised in the middle of the route, and she cannot do that. That would not only mean endangering her life but that of the commuters, and she would immediately be dismissed," said Carstens.

"But you know with any train driver there's only a metro guard protecting them, and the guard is only armed with a baton." 

Prasa spokesperson Zama Nomnganga confirmed the incident, saying the driver was assaulted by a mob.

"The driver was relieved of her duties to attend the employee assistance programme for counselling. Safety is the number one priority of Prasa for employees and commuters. No one has the right to verbally [abuse] or physically assault drivers, as it's not the drivers' fault that the trains are delayed or stopped," said Nomnganga.

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"Our people need to respect government assets and civil servants, and anyone caught behaving like this will be jailed for a long time. Assault, cable theft and the burning of trains are treason."

Nomnganga also confirmed that the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) had extended Prasa's safety permit for another three months.

In October 2018, the RSR decided to suspend Prasa's safety operating permit following a train collision in Kempton Park, Gauteng, in which more than 300 people were injured.

Prasa appealed to the North Gauteng High Court, which issued an order instructing Prasa to comply with the safety requirements set out by the RSR. The regulator allowed Prasa to continue operating provided it met the requirements of the court order.

Read more on:    metrorail  |  prasa  |  durban  |  crime

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