Slain driver remembered

Train driver Pier Botha.

Three 17-year-old boys were injured in a drive-by shooting a short distance away from where the family of slain train driver Piet Botha, 46, held a memorial service last Thursday, July 14, on the platform at Netreg station where he was gunned down just days earlier.

According to Captain Marie Louw from the Bishop Lavis police station, two of the victims were shot in the legs and one in the upper body. They were taken to Tygerberg Hospital. Police are investigating the possibility that the shooting could be gang-related.

Mr Botha, a Malmesbury father of two fondly known as “Biltong”, was shot in his leg and stomach as he waited to board a train after conducting a refresher training course on the central train line, on Monday July 11.

Thousands of commuters were left stranded on that Monday as other train drivers downed tools in protest.

Hours later, Bishop Lavis police arrested a 22-year-old man in Bishop Lavis on a charge of murder and illegal possession of a firearm. The next day, they arrested a 37-year-old man in Plumbalo Street, Bishop Lavis, and found a bag with a gun in it hidden under a bed. Both men appeared in the Bishop Lavis Magistrate’s Court on Thursday July 14. At the memorial service on Thursday, a train which transported Mr Botha’s wife Tania, son Brandon, and daughter Nadia from their home in Malmesbury, was filled with Mr Botha’s friends and family. A box of wreaths and a photo of the dead Metrorail driver were displayed on the front of the train.

Soraya Salie, the chairperson of Bonteheuwel’s Walking Ladies, said the community was disgusted by the incident .

“We feel very sad about it, and disgusted about it. We just want peace in the area. We are crying out to the government to come out to Bonteheuwel and do something about the crime in the area. All the political parties should stand together and take control of the area and bring resources into the area, “ said Ms Salie.

Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said drivers will now be escorted into crime-ridden areas. There will also be a greater police presence at stations and more Metrorail security staff will be deployed.

“The rail service is a system within communities. Even if we had the resources to ensure a crime-free moving enclave, commuters would step into crime-ridden areas the minute they leave the rail environment,” she said.

Ms Scott said there needed to be a wider condemnation of crime in communities and greater respect for the law, demonstrated by residents’ readiness to report crime and expose criminals in their midst. And the criminal justice system needed to match those efforts, ensuring that arrests, convictions and appropriate sentencing followed.

Steve Harris, general secretary of the United National Transport Union (UNTU), condemned Mr Botha’s murder as a “barbaric act”, saying it was “another senseless murder of an innocent train driver who has dedicated his life to ensuring that commuters reach their destinations safely”.