Tweet over breaking fast on Gautrain sparks war of words

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Gautrain (Getty)
Gautrain (Getty)
  • The ban on eating on a Gautrain was not relaxed for a Muslim breaking his fast.
  • In a now-deleted tweet, a passenger complained that he had been detained for eating.
  • The Gautrain company tweeted back by saying that rules were rules.

Ramadaan or not, the infamous ban on eating on a Gautrain was not relaxed for a Muslim breaking his fast.

In a now-deleted tweet, passenger Eyousuf Aziz complained that he had been detained for eating.

"I got detained for breaking my fast on a Gautrain. I explained it to them so nicely, but they didn't seem to care," he tweeted. "@The Gautrain. Get woke. Please educate themselves," he added.

Aziz told News24 that since his tweet, he had become a victim of severe abuse and cyber bullying.

"I didn't expect one small tweet would become such a racial and cultural war. It was never my intention to cause such chaos but [I was] merely trying to call out an organisation that I love. I love trains and it's one of the best government facilities we have as South Africans," he added.

"I have the utmost respect for their rules, but I was late from a flight, going home, and I took the Gautrain. When it was the official time to break my fast, I should've been more considerate of the rules and asked if it was okay," he added.

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Aziz said his tweet was taken way out of context and he shouldn't be ridiculed for airing his opinion.

"One of the guards saw me and I tried to explain to him that I just needed one sip of water or a small bite just to at least break my fast. He began to argue and that's where the situation got out of hand. I finally managed to get home, and me being an avid customer, I took to Twitter to vent," he added.

He said he did not expect a response from the Gautrain, adding that the company's lack of empathy and due care was not okay.

An emotional Aziz added: 

It was never my intention to hurt or cause anyone harm. But somehow the engagement on the tweet became an online war. And I was being attacked from every avenue. As someone who suffers from severe depression and anxiety, this was not good for mental health. I'm usually very outspoken but when all the attention is on me, I get flustered and blank out.

He said he received messages saying "he is a terrorist" or that he should "go back to his country".

"It was so painful to read so I thought it was best to delete the tweet and delete the app. I don't want to fight with anyone, and I am a firm believer that we, as South Africans, should realise that no matter your heritage or background, we have so much more in common than differences. But small issues like this somehow create such a divide in our beautiful nation and it truly pains me," he added.

"I know I am wrong in many ways, but the Gautrain, as an establishment, could've handled the situation in a better and more professional way. And not by sending such a cold, generic response. I am truly sorry for my part, as rules are rules. But in a country where our Constitution supports the right to practice religion and freedom of speech, one should never be made to feel [like that]," added Aziz.

The Gautrain company tweeted back to say that rules were rules.

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The company said it did, however, offer Muslim passengers the use of an office for iftar.

"Good evening, kindly note as per Gautrain rules, eating, drinking or chewing gum is not permitted within the Gautrain Stations, including trains and buses," the company wrote. It also provided a link to their rules poster.

"We offer short trips between stations, and we therefore appeal to our Muslim customers to plan so that iftar (the breaking of fast) does not coincide with their travels on board Gautrain," read a terse tweet.

"Had we offered long-distance trips, this is something we would have certainly taken into consideration.

"However, should a customer need to break fast whilst at a station, he or she may contact the station manager and we will gladly arrange for him or her to break their fast at the office at the respective station."

Gautrain security guards are notorious for cracking down on even a suggestion of food passing people's lips on board the high-speed train, and bubble gum in particular.

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