South Africa

TRANSPORT CONFLICT

Long-distance bus attacks – what the judge ordered Mbalula to do to end the violence

Long-distance bus attacks – what the judge ordered Mbalula to do to end the violence
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

The Minister of Transport and the Transport MEC in the Eastern Cape, in conjunction with key role players, have 20 days to develop a plan to ensure safe passage for Intercape passengers and buses. This is the first step since 2015 to stem the spate of attacks on long-distance buses in the Eastern Cape.

Parts of the Eastern Cape have been a no-go zone for Intercape buses because of the company’s refusal to give in to extortion, demands on time frames for when buses should operate, and fares determined by the taxi industry.

The order issued by Judge John Smith in the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda on Friday stipulates that Eastern Cape MEC for Transport  Xolile Edmund Nqatha and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula must within 20 days of the order, in consultation with the SAPS, the National Public Transport Regulator and the Eastern Cape Provincial Regulatory Entity, develop a comprehensive plan (action plan) to halt attacks on buses.

Smith also ruled that former Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe acted “unlawfully” when on 27 May 2022 she required Intercape to “engage in negotiations with representatives of the minibus taxi industry for purposes of regulating the price, frequency or time of Intercape services in the EC and suspend its services pending the outcome of those negotiations”.

The court also ruled that Nqatha and Mbalula have an obligation to cooperate with the SAPS and to coordinate their efforts with those of the police service.

It was also the court’s view that Nqatha and Mbalula have an obligation to take positive steps to ensure that reasonable and effective measures are put in place to provide for the safety and security of long-distance bus drivers and passengers in the Eastern Cape.

The relentless attacks perpetrated against the long-distance bus operator date back to 2015 and escalated over the years. Johann Ferreira, CEO of Intercape, previously painted a bleak picture of the extortion crippling operations and putting long-distance passengers and staff at risk.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Government must act to stop attacks on long-distance buses, Parliament told

Between January 2021 and February 2022, more than 150 shootings, stonings and other acts of violence and intimidation directed at bus drivers and passengers were reported to the SAPS in the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and Gauteng. Bus operators say police inaction has led to further bloodshed.

The latest attacks against Intercape were in the Western Cape on 3 August and on 20 August, when five shots were fired at a bus.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Murder of long-distance bus driver part of ‘campaign of violence’ against industry, says Intercape boss

Now everyone active in the long-distance bus industry hopes the ruling will bring an end to the dangerous trips and give peace of mind to both drivers and passengers for travel through the Eastern Cape.

Legal experts said the court ruling was applicable to all provinces and sent out a strong message that taxi industries should stop extortion and attacks on buses.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Before seeking relief in the Eastern Cape High Court, the matter was also discussed at Parliament’s tourism portfolio committee and the Western Cape provincial legislature’s standing committee on transport.

Daily Maverick has approached Mbalula, National Police Commissioner Lt-Gen Sehlahle Fannie Masemola, Nqatha and Eastern Cape Provincial Police Commissioner Major-General Liziwe Ntshinga on what aspects they deemed to be important for inclusion in the action plan.

The offices of Mbalula and Masemola did not respond to Daily Maverick’s inquiry.

Col Priscilla Naidu from SAPS Eastern Cape, in a one-sentence reply, said: “The SAPS is aware of the order and are busy studying it,” while Makhaya Kamiss from the office of Eastern Cape Transport MEC said: “The MEC had received the Judgment and is still busy studying it and doing the necessary internal consultation and will respond comprehensively in due course.”

Intercape’s Ferreira emphasised that the order handed down by Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda underlined that the government and elected office bearers had an obligation to maintain law and order.

“It is our hope that this court order will be the spur for the government, through the minister of transport and police, to take decisive and meaningful action to stop this criminality and to bring those responsible to book. We are ready to work with the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Mackenzie, the DA’s Western Cape spokesperson on transport, welcomed the judgment and reiterated that the ongoing attacks on the bus service had become a national crisis. Routes in both the Western Cape and Eastern Cape had been targeted by criminals.

Mackenzie said the next important step was for Mbalula to engage with all provinces affected by violence in the long-distance transport sector, as well as law enforcement, to coordinate an effective response. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris Powell Powell says:

    Mr Fokol? Don’t hold yr breath!!!

  • Tim Price says:

    I wonder if the SAPS officers who attend to these (and many other) crime scenes do nothing because Taxi Man is king in their township and to do your job would lead to a visit from an AK wielding hit man, or are they perhaps involved in the Taxi industry on the side? Or do they and their political bosses just see this as appropriate behaviour towards “white minority capital”?

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