Protesters threaten ‘to burn the Gautrain’

One of their leaders, Albert Mokoena, on Wednesday told transport department deputy director general Maria du Toit that commuters would resort to drastic actions if the train service in Pretoria did not improve.

"Before March 28 you must have responded to our demands. We have resolved amongst ourselves that it is really not good for us to burn our own trains [the Metrorail trains]. We are going to burn the Gautrain," he said outside the Bosman railway station in Pretoria.

"I know that I am on record and I am doing this deliberately. It would be useless for us to burn our own property, but that Gautrain is not for us, it's for the rich people. It is for the bourgeois," Mokoena said to cheers of approval from the crowd.

He said the transport department had not done a proper needs analysis for the majority of South Africans when it had invested in the Gautrain.

"The money that was used to build the Gautrain was supposed to [be used for] the [transport system] of the majority. When you plan, you need to look at where the needs are. You should tell that to the [Transport] Minister [Ben Martins]," said Mokoena.

'Useless' investment
"That investment [in the Gautrain] was useless. We will burn those nice trains which speak English inside them. This is not a threat. I am a politician and I use political language," he said.

Mokoena is a regional secretary of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania's Tshwane region. Most of the protesters wore green and yellow PAC T-shirts.

Another protester, Vusi Mahlangu, who studies law at the University of South Africa, said using the Metrorail train was a "painful daily experience".

"We demand more trains and we demand clean and safe service. Most students are being made to fail by the poor service of Metrorail."

Another protester, Thabang Mothelo, wept when he addressed Metrorail officials about the "tribulations of train commuters".

"It is a very painful experience when 6 000 people are crammed into one train. A cousin of mine was injured in a train accident and only got R7 500. She is now a cripple.

"I use a train because we don't have a car. Sometimes we go to bed without eating at home. Government doesn't care about us, the people who vote. We don't have to fight to get what we want. Don't treat us like monkeys," Mothelo said.

Transport department's response
Responding to the protesters' grievances, Du Toit said commuters' sentiments would be incorporated into efforts to improve the Metrorail train service.

"My good fellow men and women, I will investigate these challenges highlighted in the memorandum. These matters will be brought to the attention of the minister [Martins] and there will be a response to this gathering.

"I would not like to see any trains being burnt, whether it is the Gautrain or Metrorail trains. We want to ensure that your experience when travelling by train is a good one. The reason we travel is to make a contribution to this country," said Du Toit.

The crowd become agitated after transport department officials delayed meeting them. Some threatened to throw stones at the building. Du Toit apologised for the delay. – Sapa

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

Border walls don’t stop viruses. But this might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Watch it again: Ramaphosa addresses a locked down nation

President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the nation on the measures currently being undertaken to contain the coronavirus pandemic

The rule of law in times of crisis: Covid-19 and...

Under a state of national disaster, some rights may be suspended. But it is critical to remember that the Constitution itself is not suspended

Test backlog skews SA’s corona stats

With thousands of samples still waiting to be processed, labs are racing to ramp up testing to help the government gain a better idea of how prevalent Covid-19 really is

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories