South Africa: 'Every Day I Fear for My Life' Says Train Driver

20 February 2020

Stephanus Louw was stabbed and attacked by three men armed with knives

Details of an attack on yet another train driver have emerged, days after the report of how train driver Nonhlanhla Dlamini was injured when commuters stoned the train she was operating.

Dlamini had mentioned, while speaking to Steve Harris, general secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU), that assaults on PRASA employees have become a daily occurrence.

Metrorail train driver Stephanus Louw was attacked by three men armed with knives on 26 January when he left his cabin at the Bellville station to turn the train back to Kraaifontein, according to a statement released by UNTU on Wednesday afternoon.

Louw, who has been a train driver for 26 years, said the men held the knife to his throat and demanded his personal belongings. He gave them his bag and while putting his hand inside his pocket to get his cellphone out, they stabbed him and ran off with his phone.

"According to the surgeon I was lucky. If this stab wound was 2mm deeper, I would have lost the use of my arm completely," he is quoted in the statement as saying.

"I did not attempt to resist and still they stabbed me ... I am a husband, a father of two children and a grandfather. Every day I fear for my life. The stoning of my cabin has become a weekly occurrence," said Louw.

In 2014 he had to flee for his life after his train was torched at Chris Hani Station.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said PRASA security services will implement interventions to protect employees. "All our operational employees carry out their duties in accordance with safety regulated protocols that govern each and every decision made, particularly our train drivers," she said.

Harris said Louw's case showed that the South African Police Service were not assisting victims of train violence to open dockets nor were they investigating the incidents.

"The reality is that SAPS has a Rapid Rail Unit with 3,324 members assigned to it, but they exist only in offices as there is zero visibility from them on ground level. It is disgraceful that Police Minister Bheki Cele has not taken any action against this unit. SAPS and the Railway Safety Regulator, the watchdog over rail safety, is not reflecting the reality of the situation on the trains nationwide," said Harris.

Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, acting spokesperson, for the Ministery of Police said: "The Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele is passionate about the community and always has their best interest at heart, particularly the interests of victims of crime. The Minister has thus taken note of the allegations and will instruct the Management of SAPS to follow up as a matter of urgency. Poor service delivery by the police must be brought to the attention of SAPS management for urgent intervention."

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