Davidson Attorneys


Every week South African train commuters are involved in accidents caused by the negligence of the Transnet, Metrorail and other South African railway companies. Whether they are being attacked by criminals, pushed out of over-full trains or the victims of accidents, South Africans can claim damages for personal injury caused by negligence.

These are five cases of victims who did so successfully:

Seti v South African Rail Commuter Corporation Ltd

Bongani Seti had struggled since coming to Khayelitsha to live with his sister in 2005, but things were looking up now that his friend Tsepo got him a job as a labourer at the beginning of February 2009. Cassiem paid him R90 a day – a lot more than he had been used to.

On the morning of February 25 2009 his mates Tsepo, Loza, Songezo and Mvenya came to his house like they usually did as they used to walk together to the station. But he was running late and still had to make his food for the day, so he told them that he would catch up with them. Finally, he put his food and working clothes into his bag and ran to the station. At the station he ran down the stairs to platform 1 just as the train started pulling away.

At the platform, he dashed to the back of the train where his co-workers usually boarded and saw Teboho at the open door way. He threw his bag to Teboho and tried to grab the rail on the Cape Town side to board the train. That was the last thing he remembers – he fell, fracturing his left and right hips and injuring his spinal cord.

The Court found that even where someone jumps onto a moving train, the South African Rail Commuter Corporation was still liable for damages because the train should not leave the station with the doors open.

Mashongwa v Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa)

When he boarded the train at the Walker Street station New Year’s Day 2011 there were no security guards on the train and Sam Mashongwa was the only person in the coach. The doors did not close when the train pulled away, and he felt nervous when three men entered the coach from an adjoining coach. He was right to be nervous – within minutes they grabbed him and demanded his wallet and his cellphone.

Terrified, he complied but they proceeded to hit and kick him before throwing him out of the moving train as it was approaching Rissik Street station. He landed just before the platform at Rissik Street station where his cries for help remained unanswered until crawled onto the platform and was assisted by two security guards.

The Court found that PRASA was negligent by not ensuring that the train doors were closed when the train left Walker Street station, having at least one armed guard per train during the festive season and by not having security guards at the station to ensure that the train doors closed before departure.

Mokwena v South African Rail Commuter Corporation Ltd and Another

At the end of a long work day in February 2008, Peter Mokwena and some of his colleagues were dropped at Elandsfontein station. He and his workmate, Vusi Tshabalala waited with other commuters on platform 6 for the train travelling from Germiston to Tembisa.

When it arrived, Mokwena boarded a carriage already containing a number of passengers and stood in the middle of the coach, holding onto one of the straps which hang from the roof. As more passengers continued to enter the carriage, they pushed him further forward across the width of the carriage and He had to stop holding onto the strap. He grabbed the steel bar attached to the chairs next to the door on the opposite side of the carriage, but the pushing continued – and when the train pulled out the station he fell out of the open door of the carriage which had been open throughout and which had not closed as the train started moving.

The Court found PRASA liable for damages, because the train had departed with its doors still open.

Letabola v Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa

For nearly two years, 27 year old Mongezi Letabola had been a regular commuter on the early morning train from Lerella to Elandsfontein. Every morning he diligently caught the train between five and six in the morning in order to be on time for work.

In his rush to make the train on Monday 18 January 2011, he forgot his train ticket at home – and then the train was fifteen minutes late.
He boarded the first coach of the train, which was over crowded and stood together with other passengers as all the seats were occupied. He greeted the familiar face of Sanele, a fellow passenger who often caught the train with him.

As the train was departed from Lerella station, the door of the couch did not close. The train stopped at Limendela where there was no platform marshal and lots more commuters boarded the train. There was much pushing and shoving as everyone struggled to keep their position.

Then, as the train was entering the Tembisa train station many of the passengers started moving towards the open door. He was caught in the motion and pushed through the door while the train was still moving. As he fell, he grabbed a handle attached to a bar, only to find that the handle was broken. He got hold of a bar near the door and held on while his left leg was trapped between the platform and the moving train.

Once the train came to a stop, Mongezi managed to pull himself clear. Shocked, in pain, bleeding profusely and fearing that he would be arrested for not having a ticket with him, he limped to the road outside the station where he called for help.

The Court found PRASA guilty of negligence because the train moved while the doors were still open and awarded Peter damages for personal injury.

Rail Commuters Action Group v Transnet

At about 7pm on a Friday evening inn June 2001, twenty year-old Juan van Minnen, a final-year engineering student, was travelling home to Fish Hoek on the Metrorail train service when he was stabbed by unknown assailants. He died the next day in hospital.

A few weeks later bis father and other angry commuters convened the Rail Commuters Action Group. Sick and tired of fearing for their lives on trains, they sued Transnet, the South African Rail Commuter Corporation and the Ministers of Transport, Safety and Security.

RCAG was fighting against Cape Metrorail’s refusal to accept legal liability for commuters being killed, injured or robbed on trains.

Their euphoria after a Cape High Court ruled in their favour turned to ashes when the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned that ruling. It took 3 years and a case that went all the way to the Constitutional Court, but eventually they won.

The Court found that Transnet has an obligation to ensure that reasonable measures are taken to provide for the security of rail commuters while they are making use of rail transport services.