The mother of a 19-year-old man who jumped to his death from a moving train between Lakeside and False Bay last month has decided to tackle the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and its subsidiary Metrorail head-on for the death of her son.
In an affidavit handed in at the Muizenberg police station on Monday February 19, Shamese Abib says the death of her son, Keeno Peterson-Abib, was the direct result of gross criminal negligence of Prasa/Metrorail, a state-owned entity which is mandated to provide a commuter service to the public which is safe and reliable.
Keeno, a Sharedon Park resident, jumped from a moving train on Saturday January 13, to escape four alleged robbers
It has since come to light that the doors of the train were open on the day of the incident which is a criminal offence following a Constitutional Court judgment in 2015 after a young man was attacked and thrown from a moving train.
Ms Abib was accompanied by Leslie van Minnen, chairman of the Rail Commuters Action Group (RCAG) and Clinton Dyers who was on the train with Keeno on that fateful day.
He said Keeno stood close to the doors to prevent small children who were running and playing on the train from falling out.
Mr Van Minnen agreed to help Ms Abib to lay charges against Prasa/Metrorail after legal advisers told her she had no leg to stand on as Keeno was not a breadwinner.
She said she also approached Prasa’s investigator whom she met on the day of the accident, for advice, but he showed no interest in the case.
Mr Van Minnen lost his son, Juan van Minnen, 21, in 2001 after he was repeatedly stabbed on a Metrorail train and has since dedicated his life to see justice done for his son and other commuters who have suffered the same fate.
Ms Abib said she could never have imagined that when her son left for the beach that morning that he would never return.
“My younger son also uses the train and it terrifies me. Even the sound of the train terrifies me. I never thought my son would die this way and that his cross would hang on a fence near the scene of the accident,” she said.
The past month has not been easy for the Abib family and Ms Abib said she has made peace with the fact that the case could take years. “I am not interested in money, I just want answers and justice for my son,” she said.
Other supporters included members of Unite Behind, a civil society coalition consisting of over 20 organisations which mobilise around common campaigns and struggles.
One of its current campaigns, Fix Our Trains, is aimed at getting trains back on track.
Charges against Prasa/Metrorail include failure to protect the victim’s constitutional rights, breach of legal duty to keep doors closed while the train is in motion, breach of requirements contained in the Legal Succession Act of 1989, breach of Prasa/Metrorail’s own general operating instructions, disregard for Constitutional Court judgments, breach of certain clauses of the settlement agreement dated June 12 2009 between the RCAG, others and the minister of transport, the Rail Safety regulatory, Prasa and Metrorail, breach of public law duty and obligation of said duties and criminal negligence that was the direct cause of the unlawful death of Keeno.
Ms Abib indicated in the affidavit that organs of state clearly failed in their legal duty in terms of the Bill of Rights to provide the rights and protection that her son was entitled to as a South African citizen and this failure led to his death.
Mr Van Minnen said the issue around safety and security aspects within the Prasa/Metrorail commuter environment has been tested in a number of courts including but not limited to the Constitutional Court.
He said the findings of these honourable courts made it very clear that the responsibility of securing the safety of commuter passengers was and remains with Prasa and its subsidiary, Metrorail and said that is why they intend to not only hold organisations accountable for Keeno’s death but also senior managers.
Mr Van Minnen said the RCAG recommends that every incident is reported to the police and criminal charges laid against Prasa/Metrorail, organs of state and senior managers responsible for the commuter system. Unite Behind activist Zackie Achmat said for the past 17 years travelling by train has been a nightmare for commuters.
He said there were too many people dying on trains whether killed by criminal activity or the desperation of getting on a train which has led to people running across the tracks, hanging out of the doors and windows, between carriages or riding on the roof.
“Tragically, people have already lost their lives to this. We understand what Ms Abib is going through as well as many other commuters who have suffered a similar fate,” he said.
Metrorail spokeswoman, Riana Scott, said Metrorail has not yet been formally notified of the charges but will fully cooperate with the police investigation.