We, The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) and the United National Transport Union (UNTU), on behalf of our members, commuters at large and the citizens of our Rainbow Nation, are dying, being raped, assaulted and deformed due to Government’s inability to ensure and assist the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) in adhering to its various obligations, towards its employees and commuters, which was pointed out in numerous judgements towards the Constitutional Court.
FEDUSA, UNTU and other affiliated unions of FEDUSA, are representing more than half a million workers as well as millions of commuters nationwide and is calling on President Ramaphosa, as the Commander-in-Chief of the South African Armed Forces, to step up and to ensure that we receive safe and reliable passenger rail services within our beloved country, by ensuring that the rail services are safeguarded in the interim whilst critical infrastructure and signaling equipment are permanently replaced to ensure that the new manufactured train sets can be operational.
Mr. President, your pre-election publicity stunt of sitting in a train for three (3) hours surrounded by bodyguards and members of all the elite units of the South African Police Service (SAPS) has been forgotten. NEDLAC, an important role player in the policy and law-making processes of this country, repeatedly invited you to come to the table and assist with finding a long-term workable solution for the passenger rail crisis that this country is faced with on a daily basis. Honorable President, you derailed the whole process when you declined to attend, when the parties were desperately calling for your leadership.
The reality is, on Friday, the 19th July 2019, two (2) thieves stole an empty commuter train from a depot in Umkomaas, south of Durban, and drove nearly for 12km to Umgababa. Where else in the world would state infrastructure, funded with billions of taxpayer’s monies, be left so exposed that thieves can simply jump in and risk the lives of thousands of people living dangerously close to railway lines? To date, no one has been successfully prosecuted and sentenced for more than 180 arson attacks in the Western Cape from 2015. In Gauteng, there have been six (6) deadly train accidents during which more than eight (8) people have died and more than eight hundred (800) where injured. It has almost been a year since the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), has revoked Prasa’s safety operating permit because the state-owned-enterprise cannot adhere to crucial safety requirements.
This order was granted on the 12th October 2018 and will lapse on the 31st July 2019. To date, Prasa could not fill critical vacancies or implement crucial safety measures. The RSR is still refusing to re-issue the operating permits, yet trains are running without poor commuters even knowing the dire facts.
Today, we come here carrying the burden of millions of which the economically marginalized, deprived and impoverished communities in the greater areas, under the leadership of FEDUSA and UNTU, to make the following non-negotiable demands:
- That you deploy members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) to patrol and safeguard the 22 298 km routes and the total track distance of 30 400 km, the 11th largest rail network in the world. FEDUSA and UNTU believe that safeguarding the infrastructure should be the first step to the process of rebuilding the passenger rail services.
- That you instruct the South African National Police Commissioner to ensure that all police officials are to adhere to Section 205 of the Constitution to prevent, combat and investigate crime as well as to maintain the public order, protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic of South Africa and their property, uphold and enforce the law, similarly when it comes to Prasa.
- That Prasa be integrated with Transnet as they were prior to 2006 when former Transnet Chief Executive Officer, Maria Ramos, convinced Government that Prasa would be able to exist as a separate state-owned enterprise.
- That Prasa complies with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act which gives all human beings a right to a safe and healthy working environment. This means that Prasa management and employees must do everything within their means to prevent unnecessary injuries, illnesses and losses as well as provide and maintain, where reasonably practicable, a healthy working environment that is without risking the employees and forcing employees to take reasonable care for the health and safety for him or herself as well as the other person.
- That SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority must investigate and charge the Judiciary to impose the provisions of the Criminal Matters Amendment Act 18 of 2015. The Act is aimed at essential infrastructure related offences and to regulate the imposition of a discretionary minimum sentence, which creates a new offence list relating to the essential infrastructure and assisting with the prevention of organised crimes. The Act states that any person whom unlawfully and intentionally tampers with, damages or destroys essential infrastructures; or colludes with or assists another person in the commission, performance or carrying out of an activity whom knows or ought reasonably to have known or suspected that it is essential infrastructure, is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a period of imprisonment not exceeding 30 years or, in the case of a corporate body, a fine not exceeding R100 million. (Not a single Prasa related incident has been imposed to the minimum sentence to date)
- You must ensure that the RSR can exercise its statutory mandate independently from Prasa. For this to happen, the RSR must report to the Minister of Transport and Prasa (like Transnet) must fall under the ambush of the Minister of Public Enterprises. This will prevent the current brother/sister situation that we have witnessed to date with the RSR having to take the accountable Minister to court if they want to adhere to its statutory obligation to ensure the rail safety.
- You must ensure that the National Department of Human Settlement, Provincial Governments and the various municipalities find an alternative housing solution and relocate the thousands of squatters living as close as half a meter from the railway lines in contradiction of the safety reserve that is between 20 m to 40 m on an average to enable vehicles to drive along the railway routes in case of an emergency line or derailment. This is a very serious concern and a ticking time bomb with an accident waiting to happen.
“Thuma Mina.” We are here Honorable President. Hear us.