By Aidan Jones
The Rail Commuters Action Group (RCAG) on Monday laid criminal charges against the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) at Muizenberg Police Station.
The charges relate to the death of 19-year-old Keeno Abib on 13 January 2018 between False Bay and Lakeside train stations. An eyewitness said Keeno jumped out of a moving train to evade robbers.
“I’m angry because the train doors were open,” said Keeno’s mother Shamese Abib, 36, from Steenberg. “Even if the doors were closed, there were robbers, so his life was still in danger.”
“This is not just a statistic. This is not just a case number; it’s a person, it’s a mother and her son,” said Leslie van Minnen, chairman of the RCAG.
Van Minnen said criminal charges are being laid against all the relevant organs of state involved with transport, the CEOs and the senior managers at PRASA.
“We cannot allow those in authority to constantly get away with this. There has to be accountability and responsibility.”
Shamese said that the ticket officers don’t check tickets and there is no access control.
Van Minnen said the safety situation on Metrorail’s trains has been persisting for years and is not improving. “This is my breaking point after 17 years. Now we have to do something constructive.”
Clinton Dyers, 20, from Muizenberg was a good friend of Keeno and was with him when he jumped. He got off at the next station and ran back to where Keeno lay. He was dead. The death was caused by “blunt trauma” according to the ambulance report.
Dyers said that he and Keeno had tried earlier unsuccessfully to close the door. He said Keeno was standing at the door keeping children away from danger when the men approached him.
He said two men approached Keeno. “When that guy approached him, the other guy also stood up and gestured towards his hip [indicating he had a weapon],” said Dyers. “I would say Keeno panicked, and he jumped.”
Shamese said Keeno matriculated last year from Heathfield High School and applied to study Civil Engineering at False Bay College.
Keeno has two younger brothers, 11 and 14. Shamese said that although she does not use the trains anymore, her 14-year-old son still uses them to get to school. “He has to because other methods are too expensive, and he also chooses to be with his friends. All of them take the train.”
According to Lieutenant-Colonel Maggie Rossouw, acting station commander at Muizenberg police station, charges have been filed and an investigation will start immediately.
Riana Scott, spokesperson for Metrorail, said Metrorail had not yet been formally notified of the charges but would fully co-operate with the police investigation.
I salute you for addressing this ongoing matter. I suggest a strategy where every organization involved with commuters' safety band together and call for class action against the management of PRASA. I will personally donate R1000.00 towards the collection of affidavits from commuters in support of this action. I will make myself available to assist in this collection of affidavits.
The new State President has promised in SONA to address corruption and the state of public transport. Others before him have promised the same.
There have been other individual cases brought against PRASA and Metrorail. The evidence files of these should be reviewed and included in the class action lawsuit.
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