EXCLUSIVE: Wife of slain train driver still waiting for compensation a year later

2017-07-05 10:24
The Botha family honour their father at a memorial on the platform at Netreg Station in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)

The Botha family honour their father at a memorial on the platform at Netreg Station in Cape Town. (Paul Herman, News24)

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Cape Town - The family of a Metrorail train driver who was gunned down at a Cape Town train station is still battling to get monthly compensation owed to them approved by the State, 12 months later.

Tania Botha, wife of former Metrorail train driver Piet Botha, said her family has been struggling financially for a full year since the death of her husband.

Piet was tragically murdered at Netreg Station in July last year while waiting for a train to return to his home in Malmesbury. He had spent the day training a younger colleague.

Four people have been arrested in connection with his murder, and are awaiting trial in the Western Cape High Court.

To date, Tania has only been given a R44 000 "widow's lump sum" and a R17 000 burial fee from Workmen's Compensation, she said.

She has been waiting since then for monthly compensation owed to her under the COIDA Act, to be signed off by the department of labor's national Compensation Fund.

"I just want to ask, is that all that Piet's life was worth? R44 000, is that it?" she told News24.

"He's been serving the community for over 25 years. He's been getting certificates of clean driving for 25 years.

"Surely my children and I are entitled to a monthly subsidy from the State because my husband was killed on duty?"

On top of that, the two lump sums were simply deposited into her bank account. She had to follow up with her bank to clarify where they had come from, and has still not been told by the department how much they were owed in total.

According to the COIDA Act, Tania is eligible for 40% of Piet's monthly salary, for life, on top of the lump sum, while her two children are eligible for 20% each up until the age of 18, or until the end of tertiary study, or in the event of disability.

'I just want to look after my kids'

Without Piet's Workmen's Compensation "pension", Tania has had to pay for all of her family's medical and other expenses via cash, on one salary.

They were also at risk of losing their home.

Her two children, a 16-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son, were both offered the chance to go for counselling by Prasa following the death of their father.

Prasa only paid for her daughter.

Tania doesn't understand why it has taken so long to get the proper authorisation to sign off the claim, as she only wants to establish a fixed source of income to provide for their daily needs.

"I just want the financial ability to look after my kids properly," she says.

"I need to get things settled now to try and pick up the pieces to put it together again, if at all possible."

Hurdles, struggles, no answers

Employees of Prasa, like all State-owned enteprises, need to approach the National Compensation Fund to assist in cases where government employees require the settling of occupational claims.

Prasa regional spokesperson Riana Scott said the burden thus falls on the Department of Labour now, and there is nothing more they can do for the Botha family.

"Our records confirm that Prasa has fully met its obligations to Mrs Botha. She was advised personally and in writing of all options open to her at the time of his passing," Scott told News24 last week.

"The winding up of her late husband’s estate is a matter between her and other service providers i.e. her broker, insurance company and the National Compensation Commissioner in Pretoria."

With regards to the outstanding counselling sessions promised to her children, Scott said Prasa could not reimburse Botha for the second claim, as it did not meet the "pre-conditions".

The claim was six months after the original offer, was not with an approved/contracted doctor, and only claimed after the fact. Prasa needed to be informed beforehand.

Tania though feels the promise to pay for counselling has been broken, despite the technicality, and her medical aid savings are now depleted following her son's two sessions earlier this year.

'Just live out the promises'

Prasa regional manager Richard Walker told News24 on Monday that the process has taken some time, but the questions must be posed to the Department of Labour.

"We have wound up everything on our side that is owing to the family. Our guys have been assisting them in terms of closing it, and we will continue to do what we can."

Democratic Alliance MP Christian Hunsinger has also been following up in his personal capacity, having been alerted to the issue by the office of Western Cape MEC for Transport.

In his attempts, he was told Tania’s claim could not be completed up until this stage due to "undeclared and undisclosed” reasons.

"It's frustrating. These things shouldn't work like this," he told News24 this week.

“Just live out the promises, that’s all we’re asking,” he pleaded.

- Read more: 'Piet won't die in vain'- Prasa vows at slain driver's memorial

Both Tania and Hunsinger's attempts to reach the national department by phone yielded no results since April. It has been very difficult to “get to the desk", they both said.

Tania was engaged by the national Compensation Fund's regional management in Cape Town earlier this year, and was assured the problem was "escalated" to Pretoria.

Emails, which News24 has seen, showed a regional Fund administrator escalated Tania's claim for the monthly pension on April 24, and again on June 6, with no reply from national.

Attempts by trade union United Association of South Africa (UASA) revealed Tania's application forms had not even been loaded onto the Fund's system as at June 7, 11 months after Tania filed them with Prasa.

UASA was assured by the Fund that the forms would be processed the next week, the emails read.

Have you had problems with the Compensation Fund?

News24 also reached out to the Compensation Fund both by phone and email.

Three separate emails with questions had been acknowledged since June 23, but answers to said questions have still not been provided, 12 days later.

After 12 days, department spokesperson Lerato Ramasobane told News24 on Tuesday that she could still not provide any feedback, as they were trying to expedite the claim by the end of the business day.

Attempts to reach Ramasobane on Wednesday morning went unanswered.

*UPDATE: Following the publication of this story, Tania's claim was approved within 24 hours and communicated within 48 hours to the media. She and her daughter received their first full payments on August 25.

- Read more: Labour dept agrees to pay slain train driver's family

**ALSO: As a result of the Google Form below, News24 was able to send through 70 users' complaints similar to the Botha family's to the Compensation Fund. Nine have since been resolved, one of which resulted in the processing of a similar claim for another family.

- Read more: News24 sends of 70 users' complaints to the Compensation Fund

Have you had problems with the government's Compensation Fund?

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Read more on:    metrorail  |  cape town  |  crime

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