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Commuter takes stand against Metrorail sexual harassment

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Parliament’s transport committee chair says she will ask rail company to investigate

Photo of people boarding a train
A commuter has complained that in addition to having to deal with delayed trains, she also has to deal with sexual harassment by Metrorail staff. Photo: Tariro Washinyira
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Xoliswa Mazana, a train commuter, says that for the past two weeks she has had to deal with sexual harassment from Metrorail employees.

Mazana, 28, commutes daily from Mutual Station to Cape Town to get to work. She says that three Metrorail employees at the turnstile of Mutual Station have been catcalling her and making comments about the way she walks.

“One of the men said he forgot to do his job because of the way I looked,” she said. “These men make me feel like it’s a crime to be a woman and look a certain way.”

Mazana tried to ignore the men by wearing earphones, but when one of the men tried to talk to her and she didn’t respond, he reached for her arm. She then confronted them and told them to stop harassing her. She told them she did not need to greet them. “All I need to do is show you my ticket,” Mazana told the men. “You need to leave me alone.” The Metrorail employees walked away, but Mazana said she still felt anxious about being victimised.

“Metrorail needs to take responsibility for its employees as it is clear that customer service is not part of their training,” she said.

She complained via email to Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), which runs Metrorail, about her concerns. But her emails to the address advertised on the Prasa website (info@prasa.com) bounced. GroundUp’s emails to this address also bounced. GroundUp contacted a Metrorail spokesperson who merely responded that the company had no record of Mazana’s complaint.

Mazana also copied the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport. Chairperson of the committee Dikeledi Nagadzi responded, saying that while Parliament cannot get involved in what happens during Metrorail’s operational hours, the abuse of women wherever it occurred was unacceptable. “We condemn it in the strongest terms,” she said.

Nagadzi said Metrorail was required to have a code of conduct to regulate employees’ behaviour and that it was critical that its policy on sexual conduct was clear. “Sexual harassment of commuters is intolerable, and warrants an investigation by the company.” She said the Committee would recommend that Metrorail investigate the allegations.

Nagadzi said it was “intolerable and disgusting” that women commuters suffer “over and above the torturous train delays”. She said that at the committee’s next meeting with Prasa, it will call on the company to “improve their policies” on “sexual conduct of staff, among staff and towards commuters”.

CORRECTION: An official at Parliament incorrectly told GroundUp that the comments attributed to the chair of the portfolio committee were by Connie September. In fact they were by Dikeledi Nagadzi.

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TOPICS:  Metrorail