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TRANSPORT CONFLICT

Intercape bus driver shot — passengers run gauntlet while Transport Minister Mbalula fights safety order

Intercape bus driver shot — passengers run gauntlet while Transport Minister Mbalula fights safety order
A long-distance bus that came under fire on 31 July 2022. (Photo: Supplied)

A high court judge has ordered Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Eastern Cape Transport MEC Xolile Edmund Nqatha to take steps to ensure effective measures are put in place to provide for the safety and security of long-distance bus drivers and passengers. However, Mbalula has filed an appeal against the court order.

In just over a week, the mass holiday exodus from the Western Cape, particularly to the Eastern Cape, is expected to begin. Passengers on Intercape buses have been urged to exercise caution because National Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has not implemented an action plan to protect coaches on this dangerous road.

This comes in the aftermath of an attack by gunmen on an Intercape bus at the weekend. The police confirmed that the incident happened at around 5pm on Saturday. The bus driver was shot and injured while driving on the N2 near Borcherds Quarry.

According to police spokesperson André Traut, the wounded driver was able to drive the bus to Cape Town, where he was treated for his injury. Two passengers on the bus were unharmed.

Intercape did not want to comment, but urged law enforcement to act quickly to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of the attack.

High court order

There is, however, a high court judgment in place ordering Mbalula and Eastern Cape Transport MEC Xolile Edmund Nqatha to take steps to ensure reasonable and effective measures are put in place to provide for the safety and security of long-distance bus drivers and passengers.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Long-distance bus attacks – what the judge ordered Mbalula to do to end the violence” 

However, Mbalula has filed an appeal against the court order. He was expected to file his action plan on 28 October, but instead filed papers appealing against the court’s decision.

The court order was issued on Friday, 30 September after Intercape sought urgent relief from the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda, which would allow safe passage for its buses through the area. At the time of the hearing, more than 150 shootings, stonings and other acts of violence and intimidation directed at Intercape bus drivers and passengers had been reported to police in Gauteng and the Eastern and Western Cape.

Bloodshed and intimidation

In April, driver Bangikhaya Machana was shot in the left arm and waist at an Intercape depot in Cape Town. The 35-year-old father of two young children died from his injuries three days later.

As bloodshed and intimidation mar the long-distance transport sector, Intercape has pointed fingers at taxi bosses, accusing them of sustained mafia-style tactics and attempts at price-fixing — while the authorities, Intercape alleges, do little or nothing.

The attacks were discussed at the provincial portfolio committee on tourism in August. Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira emphasised that South Africa would have a difficult time explaining to the international community if a tourist was injured or killed in one of the ongoing attacks on Intercape buses.

Tandi Mahambehlala, the chairperson of the provincial portfolio committee on tourism, reiterated during a briefing in September 2022 that the safety of bus passengers on South African roads was paramount — especially because of foreign tourists hesitant to visit the country due to its high crime rate.

Law enforcement

Meanwhile, the Western Cape government has strongly condemned the latest Intercape coach attack. It said that since the reported increase in attacks on Intercape buses, it had taken steps to ensure the situation was brought to the attention of security and law enforcement authorities for the urgent coordination of investigations and interventions.

Premier Alan Winde lamented: “These cowardly acts of violence must be met with decisive action. Apart from a thorough police investigation; as the Western Cape government, we will continue to exert pressure on the national government… to prioritise addressing the violence that continues to mar the long-distance bus industry. 

“Public transport is already in a shocking state generally. Tens of thousands of citizens will be taking to the roads in the coming days. They deserve safe transport. I will be meeting with Intercape management this week. We will offer them support wherever we can.”

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

Daylin Mitchell, the MEC for Mobility, has also directed traffic officials to check and verify all long-distance bus operating licences, and to impound vehicles operating without, or in violation of the terms of, operating licences.

Mitchell also reminded provincial traffic officials to monitor long-distance bus operations and to look out for any “patrol vehicles” that illegally stop and extort buses and other private vehicles along key routes between the Western Cape and neighbouring provinces, with the assistance of the SAPS.

“Our first priority will always be commuter safety, and we will support any effort to root out the small criminal element that seeks to hijack the public transportation industry for their own criminal agenda,” Mitchell said. DM

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