Members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) gathered in protest at the Civic Centre on Tuesday to highlight safety concerns and the ineffective public transport system in Cape Town. Workers left their workplaces at 12pm to join in on the protest action and handed the City of Cape Town a memorandum after 2pm. Some of their concerns relates to crime on trains and at stations, the dysfunctional rail system and the disciplining of employees who arrive late due to delayed train services.
The protest coincidently follows an incident on Monday where a Metrorail driver was fatally shot at the Netreg station in Cape Town while conducting a refresher course on the line. Cosatu secretary general Tony Ehrenreich told VOC the union have been in negotiations with Metrorail and the City of Cape Town for months to push for the train system to be made safer.
Ehrenreich said that not only do they want the trains to be more reliable and efficient but safer for the citizens as well.
In addition to this, they want the City of Cape Town to move some of the buses from affluent areas, such as Milnerton, Camps Bay and Bloebergstrand to the Cape Flats areas such as Gugulethu and Elsies River where the need for public transport is much greater. However, Ehrenreich told VOC that the City of Cape Town is intent on providing transport for people in the wealthier areas that have cars and do not need it as urgently as the people in the Cape Flats.
“We also want the provincial government to provide transport between the rural towns because at the moment there is no transport for the people. And public transport is an essential part of people’s mobility and economic prospects,” said Ehrenreich.
Cosatu’s memorandum also states that Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry must advise its member companies to stop disciplining workers who arrive late due to the failure of Metrorail trains to run on time.
“We want to work with the CCCI to sue Metrorail for the lost production that is threatening many of the companies with closure,” added Ehrenreich.
The protest today is designed to put pressure on the authorities, to display the urgency of the response needed by them for the workers.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said the issues that have been raised by Cosatu are being addressed by the government through the Nedlac process. Scott also mentioned that had Metrorail not been the subject of criminal attacks on its carriages last year, they would not be in this predicament.
“We are a little disappointed that there has been no information brought forward to identify the perpetrator of these crimes,” Scott told VOC.
In response to this Ehrenreich said that they completely condemn such acts and would call on the public to make information available of the people who were involved.
“These acts are sabotage as it takes away the public transport for working families who have no alternative,” said Ehrenreich, adding that the train system was in a crisis even before the burning of the carriages.
He said the check points that are supposed to ensure no commuter brings a weapon onto the trains are not monitored adequately. The overcrowding levels are high, which is the reason for people falling off the trains, doors not closing and people hanging between wagons, all of which contributes to the unsafe environment of trains, said Ehrenreich.
Ehrenreich said they want greater coordination and determination of the priorities of how the government must intervene to safeguard the lives of the citizens.
VOC (Ammarah Qureshi)