Suspected killer of Intercape bus driver in court after weekend arrest
The Intercape long-distance bus company and its staff have been the target of well over 100 incidents of shootings, intimidation, assault and extortion since the start of 2021. Police recently arrested a suspect in connection with the murder of an Intercape driver in April.
Murder accused Unathi Sitsili, 28, appeared briefly in the Bishop Lavis Magistrates’ Court on Monday in connection with the murder of Intercape driver Bangikhaya Machana. He was shot outside the company’s depot in Cape Town on 25 April this year.
Machana died from his injuries three days later. Several other Intercape drivers have been shot and wounded in recent weeks.
Police confirmed Sitsili was arrested in Klapmuts in the Cape Winelands district during an operation on Saturday. He is charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the case had been postponed for seven days to allow the State to determine whether the accused had any previous convictions, and also to verify his address.
Ntabazalila said the state would oppose bail.
After the murder of Machana, Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira raised the alarm about escalating violence and extortion in the long-distance bus industry and appealed for government intervention.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Murder of long-distance bus driver part of campaign of violence against industry”
Sitsili’s arrest comes after Intercape provided details on 5 August of attacks on employees and vehicles since 2019 to the Standing Committee on Transport and Public Works. The briefing was also attended by the SA National Taxi Council, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, Golden Arrow Bus Services, provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Thembisile Patekile and Western Cape Mobility MEC Daylin Mitchell.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Long-distance coach and taxi intimidation, murders, crippling SA transport industry”
At the briefing, Ferreira called for the attacks against Intercape to be urgently dealt with at a national level.
Ferreira welcomed the arrest of Sitsili. The company hoped, Ferreira said, that this breakthrough would lead to further arrests and successful prosecutions of those behind a series of violent attacks on Intercape, including shootings, stone-throwing and acts of intimidation
The company has called on police in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and nationally to continue investigations to expose the criminal masterminds behind the campaign of violence directed at the long-haul coach industry in South Africa over the past few years.
Mitchell said the hitmen responsible for the brazen and targeted attacks must be brought to justice.
“Provincial traffic police will continue to monitor bus operations and, with the support of the SAPS, be on the lookout for any ‘patrol vehicles’ that illegally stop and extort buses and other vehicles along key routes between the Western Cape and neighbouring province,” Mitchell said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele promised to meet bus companies about the intimidation and violence. For now, Cele said an increase in highway patrols was imperative.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said a team was probing other cases linked to attacks on Intercape buses. The arrest of Sitsili, Potelwa said, would go a long way to help curb the violence.
Police, with other law enforcement agencies, have since intensified deployment along identified routes and hotspots.
Sitsili is scheduled to return to court on Monday. DM