Man­ners are cas­ti­gated and fe­male travellers vic­timised as dagga smok­ing, gam­bling, drink­ing, grop­ing and ejac­u­lat­ing go on, unchecked, in over­full car­riages

CityPress - - Front Page - THEMBALETHU MT­SHALI­shali@city­

Nine­teen-year-old Dikeledi Tema wished an el­derly gen­tle­man had not tried to of­fer her his seat in the packed train this week, af­ter his ges­ture trig­gered a salvo of un­so­licited re­bukes from some dis­ap­prov­ing male oc­cu­pants in the train. The gen­tle­man had first asked if any­body would be kind enough to of­fer a seat to “the lady car­ry­ing a child” as Tema, who was car­ry­ing her two-year-old son, was stand­ing.

The ver­bal rep­ri­mand from younger male train com­muters re­flects the anom­aly that per­sists in South Africa, even as the as­saults, rapes and mur­ders of women con­tinue to plague the coun­try.

City Press in­ter­viewed sev­eral com­muters and train driv­ers on var­i­ous Gaut­eng train routes – in Tem­bisa, Springs, Katle­hong and Ger­mis­ton. Most fe­male com­muters com­plained of grop­ers, par­tic­u­larly on early morn­ing and af­ter­noon rush hour com­mutes, when trains were full.

They claimed that men fon­dled their pri­vate parts and that, since trains were packed to beyond ca­pac­ity, iden­ti­fy­ing the cul­prits was dif­fi­cult.

Tema was ac­com­pa­nied by her friend, Le­bo­hang Seema (18). They were on their way to Els­burg Sta­tion, trav­el­ling in a train from Katle­hong to Ger­mis­ton. She told City Press that women ex­pe­ri­enced var­i­ous forms of abuse from some of the male com­muters on a daily ba­sis.

“A group of young men laughed and told me that no one would give up a seat for a child who was car­ry­ing an­other child. They said they did not send me to go to get preg­nant in­stead of being in school,” said Tema.

“Some were even smok­ing mar­i­juana in­side the car­riage , un­con­cerned that my child was in­hal­ing that toxic smoke.”

Tema’s friend Seema told City Press that her worst ex­pe­ri­ence was with ticket of­fi­cials who did not pe­nalise young peo­ple found trav­el­ling with­out a ticket. In­stead, they took what­ever the guilty party owned and would “tell [them] that it serves as a penalty for trav­el­ling il­le­gally”.

Seema said that, like many of the com­muters, she came from a poor fam­ily and used the train to get to town in search of work. She ad­mit­ted to also hav­ing travelled with­out a valid train ticket. She said the ticket of­fi­cials never vic­timised men or took their be­long­ings as men fight back.

“They take ad­van­tage of us be­cause we are women. Last week, they con­fis­cated my 2-litre Cola bot­tle, say­ing I could af­ford to buy re­fresh­ments but not a train ticket.”

Melita Mahlangu (28) trav­els daily from Tem­bisa to Jo­han­nes­burg and has been us­ing trains since 2009. Her nightmare is grop­ers, who tar­get women in packed trains. “You are crammed and sur­rounded by men,” she said. “While not all men are bar­baric, there are those who fid­dle with your pri­vate parts, know­ing that they can­not be spot­ted or con­fronted be­cause of the over­whelm­ingly crammed car­riage,” she com­plained.

She said that, in June last year, she was shocked to find that her dress was wet on reach­ing her des­ti­na­tion.

“Upon close ex­am­i­na­tion, the sub­stance looked much like se­men,” she said.

“I could not be­lieve that some­one had ejac­u­lated on my dress in pub­lic in a train.”

City Press also wit­nessed men us­ing train car­riages as if they were she­beens – drink­ing al­co­hol and openly smok­ing mar­i­juana.

Ac­cord­ing to com­muters, these ac­tions of­ten take place in evening trains on most routes to town­ships. Help­less com­muters remain silent as their rights are vi­o­lated be­cause there are no se­cu­rity or law en­force­ment agents around.

Fe­male com­muters trav­el­ling from Jo­han­nes­burg af­ter work to var­i­ous des­ti­na­tions in Ekurhu­leni Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Pre­to­ria, told City Press how they had been robbed in pub­lic or had watched help­lessly as fel­low travellers were robbed.

Tshidi Lesolle (not her real name) said per­pe­tra­tors had a way of “breach­ing train doors” and, as the train left the plat­form, grabbed hand­bags or cell­phones and jumped out be­fore it left the sta­tion.

“Women are seem­ingly the main tar­gets be­cause there are no se­cu­rity of­fi­cers to pro­tect com­muters,” she said.

Two fe­male train driv­ers, who asked not to be named as they are not al­lowed to talk to the media, told City Press of hav­ing been ha­rassed and at times as­saulted or in­tim­i­dated by un­ruly male com­muters, es­pe­cially when trains were sta­tion­ary.

“I some­times fear for my life, es­pe­cially when a train stops in dark and bushy ar­eas at night. Any­thing can hap­pen to us. Male and fe­male driv­ers are not safe,” she said.

Lil­lian Mo­fo­keng, spokesper­son for the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA, said: “Un­for­tu­nately, this un­be­com­ing com­muter be­hav­iour hap­pens mainly when trains are too full and/or dur­ing off-peak pe­ri­ods.

“We strive to cor­rect [this] dur­ing our com­muter en­gage­ment and safety aware­ness cam­paigns ... as a way of ed­u­cat­ing com­muters to re­spect each oth­ers’ rights while us­ing our sys­tem. This in­cludes com­muters run­ning church ser­vices, smok­ing, drink­ing and gam­bling in the trains,” she said.

Mo­fo­keng said Metro­rail, which op­er­ates 23 000 trains a month in Gaut­eng, had con­ducted special op­er­a­tions to thwart un­ruly be­hav­iour and crime. For in­stance, it had brought in law en­force­ment agencies to pa­trol trains in hot spots, where ar­rests were made. How­ever, she ad­mit­ted that such op­er­a­tions needed to be in­ten­si­fied.

Mo­fo­keng said that, to this end, ef­forts were being made to come up with an in­te­grated se­cu­rity strat­egy “to pro­vide full-time se­cu­rity through­out the en­tire oper­a­tional network and in­side ev­ery train, in­clud­ing in­stalling closed-cir­cuit TV cam­eras and rolling out new trains”.

“Metro­rail is in the process of clos­ing off its network by means of a fenc­ing project, which started in Pien­aar­spoort and Ler­alla sta­tions, to im­prove safety,” she said.

“As and when high-risk ar­eas are iden­ti­fied, se­cu­rity re­sources are de­ployed to man­age the iden­ti­fied high risks.”

Asked about the safety of train driv­ers, she said the driv­ers were con­tin­u­ally en­cour­aged at de­part­men­tal meet­ings to re­port safety chal­lenges to the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­tec­tion ser­vices. Re­sponse teams along dan­ger­ous cor­ri­dors would then be dis­patched im­me­di­ately.

. Com­muters should re­port in­ci­dents at their near­est train or po­lice sta­tions, or they can phone Metro­rail Se­cu­rity and Pro­tec­tion Ser­vices at these numbers: for Gaut­eng South, call 011 774 8566/7/8; and for Gaut­eng North, call 012 315 2777 or 012 315 2566


LIGHT­ING UP Coach num­ber 1 is al­ways a hive of ac­tiv­ity, es­pe­cially when it comes to the af­ter­noon com­mute from Ger­mis­ton to Katle­hong. The coach is oc­cu­pied mainly by a group of men – the self-styled amaYib­has – who use the ride to catch up with fel­low com­muters while smok­ing, booz­ing and singing out loud

Melita Mahlangu

NO MORE STAND­ING ROOM Coach num­ber 1 from Ger­mis­ton to Katle­hong is of­ten crowded, to the point where some com­muters hang out from train doors. They claim not to be both­ered by this, say­ing it is a trendy thing to do and is con­ve­nient for those who want to jump out quickly

DAN­GER­OUS A com­muter risks his life by jump­ing onto a mov­ing train and plac­ing him­self in the space be­tween coaches so he can ac­cess the next car­riage. This is the norm when a train is full

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