18 January 2018

South Africa: UniteBehind Protesters Assaulted By Prasa Security - Zackie Achmat

UniteBehind activists were allegedly assaulted by security guards during a protest at the Cape Town Station on Wednesday.

Members of the activist group interrupted a stakeholder engagement meeting to demand an immediate safety plan for the Cape Town central line, as well as to call for the resignation of Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) executives, the group's leader Zackie Achmat said.

"We have an issue with the appointment of Cromet Molepo as chief executive officer, as he is being investigated by the Hawks for corruption," said Achmat.

Molepo has a history of alleged financial misconduct during his time as chief executive officer of state-owned entity Umgeni Water in KwaZulu-Natal.

"Secondly, we have a problem with the impact of the corruption on the safety of commuters.

"We gave them time to respond and they failed to do so. They decided to have a little indaba today, but it's a little too late. We want to see their safety plan," explained Achmat.

When the activists were told to leave, they protested outside before they were allegedly attacked by Prasa security and plain-clothed men.

"The plain-clothed men were the worst. They assaulted us and took away our phones. We will be pressing charges," said Achmat.

Achmat's sentiments were echoed in an official statement from UniteBehind.

"#UniteBehind will lay charges against the thugs posing as Prasa security at the Cape Town Police Station. We commend the handful of professional security guards who tried to protect us," read the statement.

"As far as I know, there was an internal meeting and external parties tried to enter. This was an internal meeting not meant for external parties," Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott told News24.

Scott was unable to provide more information on the alleged assault.

The protest action was monitored by the police, according to Cape Town police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut

"No arrests have been made," said Traut.

Metrorail's central line was scheduled to resume on Wednesday, after Prasa and the United National Transport Union (UNTU), the trade union representing the majority of Prasa employees, signed an employee safety agreement on Tuesday.

However, this was postponed after a train derailment due to vandalism.

UNTU spokesperson Sonja Carstens explained that the purpose of the meeting, which was disrupted by the protest, was to discuss a safety plan.

"This meeting is about how we move forward with the safety of our workers. Remember, if something happens to a train driver, all the commuters are in danger.

"People tend to forget that five employees have been killed over the course of 18 months," said Carstens.

Armed guards

Cape Town's busiest line, between Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to the CBD, was shut down after a security guard was shot and killed at the Chris Hani station.

UNTU members agreed to operate on the central line only if two police officers escorted the train driver and the Metrorail guard. The agreement also stipulated that there be a police officer in the middle cab, as well as armed guards at turnaround stations.

Provisions were also made to ensure that armed guards secured "hot spot" train stations, such as Netreg, Bonteheuwel, Heideveld, Nyanga and Langa.

"Significant" conditions would also require police officers to accompany the train crew from the roster office, Carstens said.

Containers would also be placed at the Bonteheuwel split, protected by armed guards or police officers 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Vehicles would be placed on the railway's service roads within 30 days and missing signals would be replaced and made operational within 90 days.

Source: News24

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