The United National Transport Union (Untu) has called on its members and South Africans to support its national protest on 26 July to force President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure provision of safe and reliable passenger rail services for all.
“The President is gambling with the lives of people. How can he create a dream of bullet trains from Johannesburg to Musina when the South African Police Service (SAPS) cannot even prevent clamps being stolen that is supposed to be holding the sleepers together on the ailing rail system?” Untu general secretary Steve Harris said in a statement on Tuesday.
Harris said the derailment of a train in the early hours of Tuesday on the Springs-Daveyton route to Johannesburg in Gauteng could have been prevented if the president had acted on the union’s repeated calls to deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to safeguard the rail infrastructure.
He added that this would allow the conditions for fast-tracking and finalising the long overdue modernisation programme to revitalise the rail industry.
“Untu is very grateful that nobody died or got badly injured this morning. Our sincerest condolences go to the family of the 13-year-old boy who fell from a train on the route from Naledi in Soweto on Sunday,” the union said.
“His death could have been prevented if the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), the operator of Metrorail, adhered to the judgement of a full bench of the Constitutional Court in 2004 that ruled the state-owned enterprise were fully accountable for passenger safety and could be liable for civil and criminal action if they failed in their duty.
“To date Prasa has also been allowed to ignore a judgement of the Constitutional Court made in 2015, according to which trains are not allowed to have open doors while in motion. The Court ruled that any operator who allows this to happen is guilty of criminal negligence and must be prosecuted,” Harris said.
He said Untu supported the sentiments of Thembinkosi Mkhaliphi, chief director at the Department of Labour, and member of the Steering Committee of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
“All workers, whether or not they are commuters or employees of Prasa, should feel safe when they are travelling on trains. Even if only one person dies it is one too many,” Mkhaliphi said.
Nedlac granted Untu’s affiliated federation and the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) the Section 77 protest action certificate in terms of the Labour Relations Act.
“It allows anyone to participate in our planned strike as any protect action would be protected.
“Together we can get government to improve the poor service provided by Metrorail, its aged infrastructure, manual signalling and many other aspects that have led to deaths, constant attacks, health and safety hazards and so many arson attacks, that leave both Untu members, Fedusa members and the general public reliant on the train services and all other commuters in despair daily,” Harris said.
– African News Agency (ANA)