Call for tighter railway watch after robbery

Keeno Petersen-Abib with his mother, Shamese.

The death of a 19-year-old man who jumped from a moving train between Lakeside and False Bay on Saturday January 13 to escape an alleged robbery has placed the spotlight on Metrorail’s ability to protect its commuters.

This follows less than a week after a security guard was shot dead on Tuesday evening January 9 at Chris Hani station in Khayelitsha, resulting in the suspension of the Central line until further notice.

Keeno Petersen-Abib from Sharedon Park, Steenberg was on the train with three other passengers around 3pm when they were approached by three men of which one had a knife.

He then apparently jumped from the train to avoid being stabbed and died on the tracks between False Bay and Lakeside stations.

Police spokeswoman, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed the incident.

Train traffic was halted for the duration of the on-site investigation and limited bus services were made available to transport commuters to Muizenberg and Steenberg.

It is said that he has just completed his matric.

Chairman of the Lakeside Community Watch, Paul Plumridge, said the family of the victim arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and were very traumatised.

He said the watch assisted the family during the on-site investigation making sure they were as comfortable as possible.

According to Mr Plumridge, crime on the trains are definitely on the increase. He says many robberies take place on the line between Lakeside and Retreat and people jump in the train and grab what they want, jump out and disappear into the bushes.

He said, in his opinion, there should be at least two security guards per carriage and Metrorail should make sure their security guards are properly trained.

Deputy chairperson of the Muizenberg community sub-forum, Beatrice Twigg said his family was devastated but “were holding up”.

She said there will be a memorial service for Keeno on Saturday January 20 at the Palm Tree Mission Gospel church in Military Road, Steenberg at 8am.

Chairman of the Rail Commuter Action Group, Leslie van Minnen said Metrorail is not able to protect commuters.

He said there were two aspects to the incident on Saturday. How did the perpetrators get on the train? Were there rapid rail police officers on the train and security officers at the station? And if not, why not?

Then one should look at how the young man jumped from the train. If he jumped through the door, it means the doors of a moving train were open which is a criminal offence.

“A 2015 Constitutional Court judgment ruled in favour of a passenger that was attacked and thrown out of a moving train.

“The train doors were open. The court ruled in favour of the victim, stating that any operator who allows this to happen is guilty of criminal negligence and must be prosecuted,” he said.

Mr Van Minnen said he had little hope that much will be done to safeguard commuters in the near future due to insufficient funding, conditions of old trains and security staff not being trained adequately.

“Most security personnel employed by Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA/ Metrorail are untrained unregistered contracted guards and Prasa was recently fined R3 million by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority for employing unregistered guards.”

Spokesman for Public Transport Voice (PTV), a community and membership-based organisation which advocates for quality and equality in the South African public transport system, Delton Ndongeni, said they have been calling for better protection of commuters for a long time but nothing has materialised.

He said that Metrorail and Prasa simply “don’t come to the party” when they are called to protect commuters and passengers are often robbed on trains and at stations.

Mr Ndongeni said they were shocked over the death of the commuter and the incident demonstrated Metrorail’s inability to protect its commuters.

He said there seems to be a leadership crisis at Prasa and PTV has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow, Friday January 19, with Metrorail’s regional manager, Richard Walker, to discuss the role of SAPS railway police.

Metrorail spokeswoman, Riana Scott said they are concerned about the incident and it will be shared with the Rapid Rail Police Unit to plan deployment of resources as well as the protection services investigative team who will continue to work closely with the police.

She said Metrorail protection services is mandated and resourced to protect commuters, employees and assets within rail precincts and resources are allocated according to priorities determined at joint weekly meetings between Metrorail protection services and the police.

She added that the regional static, mobile and undercover proactive deployment of security resources is based on security intelligence and reactive measures in response to reported incidents.

“The matter will be raised during our weekly interaction with provincial SAPS and the Rapid Rail Response Unit to consider when deploying resources,” she said.

She said this type of incident is random and opportunistic; it makes it difficult to resource pro-actively.

“Crime is on the increase in general and rail precincts are unfortunately not exempted from criminal attempts,” she said.

Sergeant Rwexana said an inquest docket was opened
and the case is still under investigation. No arrests have been made as yet.