CAPE TOWN – While Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) executives were meeting with United National Transport Union (Untu) representatives to discuss safety concerns on the central line, another attack took place on the same line.
Untu spokesperson Sonja Carstens said three armed men boarded a train from Cape Town to Bellville on Tuesday. While the train was stopped at a red signal between Mutual and Langa stations for 10 minutes, the men proceeded to rob commuters.
“The robbers fled after one of the commuters fired a gun at them. A Prasa protection official on the train, a female Untu member, was unarmed. She was hiding behind a seat,” said Carstens.
The union recently called for Prasa to suspend its operations on the central line between Cape Town and Langa. It said its members would not work on that line.
At the meeting with Prasa acting chief executive Dries van der Walt, the union expressed its intention not to work any longer on the central line until its Western Cape High Court application has been concluded.
“Untu’s position remains unchanged. As a responsible trade union we cannot allow our members to continue to work in life-threatening circumstances on this line. Trains operating on this line are clearly under siege from criminals who view them as soft targets.
“According to Prasa, it will cost them R600 000 to employ a private company to secure the central line. Prasa has their own protection officials, but they are not armed although they were trained in handling firearms,” said Carstens.
Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said: “While the acting chief executive was meeting with labour representatives in Joburg, the regional Metrorail team and a national security delegation engaged with affected staff in Cape Town to understand the daily challenges faced by train drivers having to operate in gang-infested areas.”
In the application, Untu wants the court to order Prasa to establish an armed mobile reaction unit stationed at Netreg, Mitchells Plain and Chris Hani stations. It also wants train drivers and guards to have armed guards accompanying them.
PHOTO: Train drivers are refusing to work on the Central Line after a number of attacks. File picture: Cindy Waxa