Off the rails and into school

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

"Stop it. It's not worth it."

This is the heartfelt warning from one of Gauteng's most notorious staff riders - aka train surfers.

Now reformed, he wants kids to stopindulging in this death-defying past-time.

Prince "Bitch Nigger" Shiba, 21, says he joined the "death riders" because his dream was to become a stunt man.

"I became a staff rider because I wanted to attract attention. I always hoped that someone would see what I am capable of and give me an opportunity to develop my talent."

The lad, from Mofolo North, Soweto, got his nickname because of his daredevil stunts as a staff rider.

He used to leave train commuters awe-struck as he performed a daring stunt by crawling under a moving train and emerging on the other side.

One of Shiba's co-riders, Tebogo Hlangane, 18, was less fortunate. His youthful face has deep scars he got from an electric shock while staff riding.

Both Shiba and Hlangane dropped out of school to engage in their deadly past-time.

Hlangane claims he did it for the fame and "to impress the girls".

Fortunately, they and 28 other youths from all over Gauteng have lived to tell their tales.

Adding to their fortune is the fact that Metrorail has put them on a rehabilitation programme where they are being trained as safety ambassadors.

They are now part of a campaign to teach the public about the dangers of staff riding, cable theft and jaywalking at level crossings.

Metrorail has also enrolled the youths at the Star Schools in Braamfontein so they can continue their schooling.

Yesterday Metrorail spokesman Pule Mabe said the company had invested R500000 over three years for the education of the former staff riders.

l Last year there were six fatalities and seven injuries related to staff riding.

There were also 33 injuries and five fatalities involving commuters who fell between trains and platforms. There were 15 fatalities and 331 injuries involving commuters who fell from moving trains.