Transport: Train travel – dumping their worries

Trains are notorious for their delays, their broken windows that expose their occupants to the elements, the tsotsis who prey on innocent commuters. Numsa administrator, Liesbet Mohutsiwa, braves a one and a half hour train ride (on good days!) twice a day in Train 9019 between her home in Orange Farm and work in Numsa’s Johannesburg Central local. However, as Mohutsiwa reports, commuters have found ways to cope with their everyday potential nightmare and their long, hard days at work. Join Mohutsiwa and be transported into a world where “the stress just runs away”, where people come together to “support each other”, where domestic problems are healed.

The morning train is always full of commuters on their way to work. Today is no exception with people chatting and singing. Some are talking and joking in their own unique languages. But most have their eyes and ears fixed on the preacher standing before them. Coach number three from the back is where you will meet people calling themselves “Shembe”. Mr Charles Dingane works at Con Bake Bakery. He is not a union member. “We are reviving people with their traditions and the faith of Shembe, a prophet from KwaZulu Natal. He can heal people with diseases and you become healed by your faith in Shembe.” “Most of the people gathered together in this coach are happy to have this service. They are listening and singing with us,” says Dingane. “Even if the train is delayed, we don’t have any problem, we just stick to our service.” Morning Odours

As I try to make my way to coach number five from the front, the early morning odours of soap, roll-on and body creams fill my nose. Mr Mkhonza is the leading preacher of this coach. They call themselves ‘The Apostles’. Claiming to have God’s instruction to preach on the trains, Mkhonza complains that some commuters disregard this and are noisy. “We always beg them to stop making a noise as we are preaching,” he says. But their pleas are met with little respect. “Some people say: ‘it’s a train’, meanwhile they know that we are praying. Sometimes they force us to fight whereas that doesn’t go hand in hand with prayer.” Mkhonza explains that they too provide a service. “We help people to bury their beloved ones who passed away. Every month we contribute R10 per person and we put that money in the bank. As you can see, the train is full of people but some of them are not members. We are about 30 to 40 Apostles members, the rest of them are here just because they are on the way to their workplaces or the music has called them. The dancing in the Lord’s premises gives us power to work the whole day as we are blessed.” “These services are a blessing to them. Some people come with their problems from their homes. When they are in this place, they are healed,” continues Mkhonza. “We also give guidance to the youth to learn how to preach. Every Tuesday is our youth day. Borm Again

Coach number 6 from the front is for Born Again Christians like Mrs Susan Moloi. She is a worker at the Black Lawyers Association and she’s the one who’s always handling the matters of this coach. “Our mission is to bring people to the Lord by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He can save their lives. We praise and lift up the name of Jesus, we pray for the sick people and also for their needs.” Moloi too complains of the ‘disturbance’ but recognises that “this is public transport and everybody has a right to do whatever s/he wants. We just carry on with the service and pray that God touches the lives of those people so that they may understand what we are doing,” says Moloi. “Most people, whom we pray for, get helped and they come back and testify what God has done for them after we have prayed for them.” Amadlozi

Coach four is for Amadlozi – those that worship their ancestors. They are singing, “Umlilo wehlozi, uvutha ngaphakathi kwam” (“the fire of the ancestors is burning inside me”). The coach is so full and people are participating a lot in the singing and dancing. A man is talking. He speaks of laws and traditions of their ancestors. He explains where they come from. He tells people how to put themselves in a traditional way and gives an example saying: “Mpondo, Nyawuza, Thadla – Hlamba ngegazi amanzi ekhona.” Others laugh out with excitement over what they are talking about. Some in bigger groups talk about the previous episode of the daily ‘soap’ on the television, a sports analysis, or some other topic affecting society. Their noise together with the preacher preaching at his loudest and the hymns in between the sermons is like the sound of frogs croaking in a pond at night. I move from one crammed carriage to another with difficulty. Some people get annoyed at the rubbing against one another. A Mix

Coach two is different. People are not prepared to give me their names. “We don’t trust you,” they say. However, they do tell me that they are workers from different companies. Some are even union members, like one woman from Fawu and Mishack Mathebula, a proud Numsa member from Vanesco, West Rand local. “If you meet us here, you could think that we are in church. Nobody makes nonsense here, and ‘SORRY’ is our motto if you chase somebody by mistake,” a commuter says. “We are supporting each other by talking and joking to keep ourselves busy,” says one of them. “By talking together we take out our workplace stress, the stress just runs away,” another one adds.