Pallbearers carrying Piet’s coffin at the NG Kerk in Riebeek Kasteel outside Malmesbury. CREDIT: Solly Lottering

Family and friends of slain train driver Piet Botha yesterday bid an emotional farewell to him.

Piet was described as a hero to his family and colleagues during his funeral held at the NG Kerk in Riebeek Kasteel just outside Malmesbury, where hundreds of mourners came to pay their last respects.

The funeral service was held at the same church where the father of two got married and where his children were baptised.

The 46-year-old was laid to rest exactly a week after he was gunned down at the Netreg station by two armed men during a robbery while waiting for a train.

Two suspects were arrested and are due to appear at the Bishop Lavis Magistrates’ Court tomorrow where prosecutors will indicate whether they will oppose bail or not.

Yesterday, heartbroken relatives described Piet as a generous and kind man, who loved making jokes and who always had time for his loved ones.

His son, Brendan Botha, told the congregation: “When I think of my dad, I think of all his jokes, he always had time for another one.”

“My father had a smile like no other. My dad loved my mom and she loved him and was very proud of him.

“He had a big heart and whenever I think of him I feel a little sad but we know he is in a better place.

“Dad is, was and always will be my hero. Rest in peace and I will always love you.”

Train driver Gerrit Cloete, 54, from Wellington explained how his former mentor Piet got his nickname, Biltong.

“He sold biltong, if you wanted lekker biltong, you had to buy it from Piet.”

Union leaders also spoke highly of the driver who dedicated 30 years of his life to his job.

Regional chairperson for United National Transport Union, George Warrington, says Piet’s death was tragic but preventable.

“Our railway stations should not have been accessible to the men who shot him twice in the head,” he said.

“UNTU wants to know why there was no security available when Pieter was attacked.”

The General Secretary for Federation of Unions SA, Dennis George, says Piet’s death should not be in vain, and urged authorities to take action.

He said train drivers are faced with potential tragedies every single day.

“Why are our train drivers and members shackled with the immovable scars of post traumatic disorders when overcrowding, criminal activities and sheer desperation of suicides face them head-on in the execution of their duties?”