By Mary-Anne Gontsana and Katherine Liu
First published on GroundUp
Simo Kwepe was 16 when he was killed on the Cape Town Metrorail line last month. Keeno Abib died last year after he fell off a moving train while trying to get away from gangsters trying to rob him.
It’s deaths such as these that prompted social justice organisations, led by commuter activist group #UniteBehind, to picket outside Parliament on Wednesday to “remember all those that lost their lives due to corruption and maladministration in government”.
As new MPs were sworn in, the 80 or so protesters called on government to stop corruption and fix trains. They held placards saying: “Remember those fallen”, “Stop crime”, and “Fix our trains no more delays”. Next to the activists lay “body bags” made out of black bags.
Dominic Brown of #UniteBehind said: “We’ve heard a lot of promises before. Promises of jobs, of land, of corruption being stopped, of our trains being fixed. It is now time to hold people accountable. These body bags represent those who have fallen because of corruption.”
“Today is a solemn occasion where we remember those who have fallen because they were poor,” said Brown.
Protester Ludine Warries said “I have seen so many terrible things while travelling by train: commuters being robbed, being thrown off the train, being pick-pocketed. People are losing their jobs out there because they are constantly late. All this because of Metrorail.”
#UniteBehind has previously released leaked documents, known as #PRASALeaks, showing massive corruption at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), the state-owned enterprise that runs Metrorail.
Organisations that participated in the protest included Right2Know, Reclaim the City, Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education, Alternative Information and Development Centre, Women and Democracy Initiative, People’s Health Movement and Sonke Gender Justice.
Prasa acts against alleged corruption
According to a Prasa statement, the entity’s board, with group CEO Nkosinathi Sishi, have placed various executives on suspension and special leave.
Chief Strategy Officer Sipho Sithole has been placed on suspension. Head of Legal, Risk and Compliance Martha Ngoye and executive Tiro Holele have been placed on special leave.
The statement said the decision followed investigations into “improper, irregular, corrupt, fruitless and wasteful expenditure by various employees of Prasa at all levels of the organisation”.
“It is clear that the current board means business and wants to root out alleged corruption in Prasa’s highest ranks,” the United National Transport Union said.
Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana