Nonhlanhla Dlamini, a 38-year old female train driver of Metrorail, a division of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), is extremely traumatised after she was stoned in her cabin by a mob of furious commuters.
Steve Harris, General Secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU), says Dlamini, a member of the Union who represents the majority of Prasa’s employees, was on route from Durban to Stanger when commuters wanted her to stop in the middle of the section.
“I refused to do it as it was not allowed and would have created a very dangerous situation for the commuters and for the train crew.
“I then stopped at Briardene Station where I had to stop. The commuters where furious. They surrounded the cabin and started stoning me. I tried to hide inside the cabin,” Dlamini told Harris.
The commuters threatened to kill her if they could get hold of her. Dlamini was hit on the head and her ear by some of the stones and was bleeding badly. She had to wait 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 employees’ assault has become a daily occurrence,” Dlamini said.
She broke-down in tears during the conversation with Harris. She had to wait for transport to take her to the nearest hospital for treatment for her bleeding wounds.
Harris says no employer, even those providing a service of national importance to the economy like Prasa, can force their employees to work under these circumstances.
“Employees are Prasa’s most Important assets because without them they won’t be able to run any service at all. As human beings we are all entitled to a safe and healthy working environment. The Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed by parliament in 1993 as a proactive attempt by government to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment to all.
“The provisions of this Act are being ignored by Prasa and various role players like the Department of Health, the Department of Labour, the Department of Transport, the South African Police Service, the Railway Safety Regulator and now even the Judiciary is turning a blind eye,” says Harris.
On 12 October 2018 Judge Cassim Sardiwalla ordered Prasa to adhere to the safety requirements of RSR and acknowledged the importance of Prasa’s obligation to ensure that it provides a safe and reliable service for the workers who have to operate it and for the commuters that rely on trains to commute.
The Judge described this case as a matter of national importance and availed himself to manage the progress of the case.
On 20 June 2019 Judge Sardiwalla issued a second court order that must be read in conjunction with his first order.
According to the second order a “Final Compliance Assessment Conference” will be convened to assess on the general compliance of Prasa and the RSR before the Judge on 26 February 2020.
In the meantime, the RSR extended Prasa’s safety operating permit on 31 January 2020 with another three months despite the ongoing situation nationwide.
Issued on behalf of UNTU by Sonja Carstens, Deputy-General Secretary responsible for Media, Liaison and Communication.