A female Metrorail train driver had to get stitches after she was attacked by commuters for refusing to stop between stations in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday morning, the United National Transport Union (Untu) has said.
“Our member was taken to hospital for treatment – she had to get stitches,” said Sonja Carstens on behalf of the Untu.
The attack took place between 06.00am and 07.00am, and the train driver was left bleeding and emotionally distraught, waiting an hour for help.
According to information the Untu had received, 38-year-old Nonhlanhla Dlamini was en-route from Durban to Stanger when commuters wanted her to stop between stations.
“I refused to do it as it is not allowed and would have created a very dangerous situation for the commuters and train crew,” said Dlamini in an account relayed by Untu’s general-secretary, Steve Harris, in a statement.
“I then stopped at Briardene station, where I had to stop. The commuters were furious. They surrounded the cabin and started stoning me. I tried to hide inside the cabin.”
Briardene is near uMhlanga, which is north of Durban.
The Untu said the commuters had threatened to kill Dlamini and she was hit on the head and ear by some of the stones. She was bleeding profusely and had to wait for more than an hour for help to arrive.
“It is bad. Very, very bad. I am a mother of three children. 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.
“It is also not the first time this has happened to me. For me and other Prasa [Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa] employees, assault has become a daily occurrence,” Dlamini said.
Harris accused the government of ignoring the Occupational Health and Safety Act which was supposed to provide a safe working environment for employees.
Prasa called the attack on its staff members “reprehensible”, saying security services would be implementing a range of interventions to protect employees.
- Rapid rail police will be sensitised of any incidents on the ground. – Any stations at a junction or the end of a line would be closely monitored.
- Train drivers must immediately tell the joint operations centre of any prevailing circumstances.
- Train drivers must keep their doors closed and stone guards up.
- Prasa security area commanders will monitor potential threats.
- Guards at stations should be extra vigilant.
“Prasa is disappointed by the senseless attacks on our employees who are merely carrying out their duties.
“All our operational employees carry out their duties in accordance to safety regulated protocols that govern every decision made, particularly our train drivers. Any stoppages made are done so to protect our commuters. It is therefore reprehensible that certain rogue elements would attack the very people who are protecting their safety,” said spokesperson Nana Zenani.
Bongisizwe Mpondo has been appointed as Prasa’s administrator tasked with turning the ailing rail network around.
At a press briefing, he said CCTV cameras would be added to Prasa’s security measures, adding he also supported walls being built along lines such as those in Nyanga after people had made holes in fences along railway lines.
After Mpondo took on the role in December, he called Prasa a “broken institution” that was in “disorder”, saying services to passengers were being paralysed due to vandalism, arson, fare evasion and, since 2015, there had been a steady stream of CEOs.