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Intercape wants police commissioner, transport minister declared in contempt of court over Eastern Cape bus attacks

Intercape wants police commissioner, transport minister declared in contempt of court over Eastern Cape bus attacks
From left: Eastern Cape Police Commissioner Nomthetheleli Mene. (Photo: SAPS) | Intercape bus. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | The inside of an Intercape bus in Cape Town. (Photo: Flickr / Danny Foster) | National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

Following a number of court rulings ordering the police and transport officials to develop a plan to ensure the safety of Intercape passengers, the bus company has submitted a contempt-of-court application against the SAPS commissioner and transport minister.

Fannie Masemola, the national police commissioner, and Nomthetheleli Mene, the Eastern Cape police commissioner, have been summoned to the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda to explain why the SAPS has allegedly failed to develop a plan to ensure the safety of Intercape passengers and buses in the province.

The two are among six key players facing a contempt-of-court application to be heard on Thursday, 14 December 2023. Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, Eastern Cape transport MEC Xolile Nqatha, the National Public Transport Regulator and the Eastern Cape Regulatory Entity have also been asked to explain their alleged failure to implement court orders.

The case stems from a September 2022 court judgment issued by Judge John Smith that gave the authorities 20 days to develop a safety plan aimed at preventing violence and intimidation against long-distance coach passengers. 

The court also ruled that Nqatha and the transport minister (Fikile Mbalula at the time) must cooperate with the SAPS to coordinate their efforts to prevent attacks on buses.

At the time of the order, parts of the Eastern Cape were off-limits to Intercape buses due to the company’s refusal to cave into alleged extortion from the taxi industry.

The taxi industry demanded that Intercape and other long-distance bus operators raise their prices, limit the number of buses operating on specific routes, change their timetables so that all buses leave Eastern Cape towns before noon daily, and stop operating entirely in certain towns.

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, Western Cape and Gauteng.

AmaBhungane reported in June 2022 that Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira, in a sworn affidavit to the SAPS, detailed how over the past five years, taxi associations have allegedly tormented Intercape staff, destroyed their property and attempted to extort money directly from him and other bus operators.

According to Ferreira, Intercape has opened more than 175 cases with the SAPS, largely in the Eastern Cape, a number of which have led to serious injuries to employees and passengers of Intercape.

In April 2022, Intercape bus driver Bangikhaya Machana died in hospital days after being shot outside the company’s depot. A few months later, a  driver was shot and critically wounded at the same place. Since the court ruling in September 2022, a further 40 cases have been reported in the Eastern Cape, and a further eight nationally.

Intercape says the authorities have not complied with the court order compelling them to act to reduce the violence and now it wants the SAPS leaders and transport minister held in contempt.

The bus company’s heads of argument and Ferreira’s affidavit will be read into the record on Thursday and then made public. Masemola and Mene have also filed answering affidavits which will also be read into the record on Thursday.

Ferreira says that since the court ruling 15 months ago ordering the transport minister and SAPS officials to prevent acts of violence and intimidation against Intercape, they have instead spent their time focusing on appealing the numerous judgments against them.

In November 2022, Mbalula appealed against the Eastern Cape High Court order compelling him to draft an action plan to stop the attacks on Intercape’s long-distance buses.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eastern Cape judge loses patience with police and government’s slow response to Intercape bus attacks

In August 2023, the court once again ordered the national transport minister, Eastern Cape transport MEC and SAPS to “develop a revised comprehensive plan on the steps they intend taking 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”.

Judge Smith dismissed an action plan proposed by the authorities as “woefully inadequate to ensure the safety and security of long-distance bus drivers and passengers”.

‘Forced to take action’

Commenting on the upcoming hearing, Ferreira said: “When Ms Mene and Mr Masemola fail to do what they are legally obliged to do and as the Constitution demands, we are forced to take legal action. We need them to implement the law. Intercape is a responsible corporate citizen, with a duty to protect its passengers, employees and its business interests.”

With no apparent safety plan in place from the authorities, Ferreira said Intercape is continuing to try to keep its passengers safe.

“From a private standpoint, we employ our own safety security officers, so we cannot rely on the presence of the police as requested and directed by court.

“This is the whole debacle, and it is why we are in court every two months to demonstrate that the police are not following the court order.”

Intercape has also filed a separate legal action to have the ongoing acts of violence and intimidation against coach passengers recognised, investigated and prosecuted as acts of organised crime.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Police don’t know what they are doing’: Intercape asks court to order an investigation into 165 bus attacks

Acting judge Olaf Ronaasen heard this application on 20 September 2023, and judgment has been reserved. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Patson says:

    Anyone running a book on whether they will obey the summons?

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Next we shall learn that InterCape, all its buses and offices, has been (mysteriously) burnt to the ground, and several senior staff have been kidnapped.

    And as for the outcome of the High Court’s determination, does anyone bother with judgments anymore, especially the cadres?

  • Geoff Coles says:

    No one is more important than a Minister or a Police General. How dare they be embarrassed (perhaps) by Court Orders or the Constitution.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    The timing is perfect to put them in jail until the new year. If they can jail the ex president for contempt then it’s not too much of an ask to give the same treatment to these lowly worms.

  • Henry Coppens says:

    This Intercape saga is merely an attempt by ANC to use its thugs to do its dirty work of killing private enterprise all as part of their communist inspired NDR. The construction mafia is another, as are the Cape Town taxi revolts, cable theft, the cash in transit heists, transnet and other infrastructrure trashing/theft. Of course blithering incompetency, and personal interests serve to fail to rectify these things but they all play so nicely into the NDR objectives among which is to make make it difficult for private enterprise to thrive. I wonder why? These are not insoluble issues and a competent non ideological based government, with no cadres and others on the take, would at least have made some progress in rectifying them when they have been going on for over 20 years..

  • Nick Zoomers says:

    The courageous effort by Intercape’s MD is an example to a lot of other businesses that experience similar terrorism.

  • hannie1 says:

    About time the authorities are forced to exercise their authority and face the consequences
    Taxi bosses must also be brought to book

  • William Kelly says:

    Just as the cANCer uses apartheid tactics so too we must use ANC tactics and render the those in power powerless. Tie them up in court, sue, harass and make their lives a misery. Render them unable to govern. It cannot be worse than it is now.

  • Richard Robinson says:

    What a wonderful day it will be for accountability and our Country, if these Keystone Cops of the clown-in-a-hat’s inept circus are jailed for this.

  • Paul Alberts says:

    Commissioner Funny Masemola is doing as good a job as those that came before him.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Fikile Mbalula. Say no more. With a stupidity rating in the outer limits of comprehension, it was to be expected that he would appeal in injunction that he do his job instead of spewing ridiculous and inane comments at everyone within reach. He was a useless minister of police (but nowhere near as useless as Bheki Cele), a useless minister of sport, and now, his ultimate non-achievement as secretary general of the ANC. Can one but wonder at the plight of long distance bus passengers when their fate lies in the hands of these clowns and top police officers?

    • Gavin Hillyard says:

      But will those bus victims not just continue to put their crosses in the ANC block come 2024? SA gets what it votes for. A kakistocracy. Sad but true.

  • Seven Thosand says:

    Would have to charge them in their personal capacity. No way in hell are they going to jail. Fine is paid by the taxpayers so they don’t give a damn either way.

  • Michael Coleman says:

    Complete contrast to today’s DM report of action in NorthWest / Sun City case of bus attacks – but of course that’s tourists not SA citizens who need protection.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Here’s a key question; what do all these transport “officials” with lofty titles actually do all day? The state of roads is a mess, road safety & obeyance of rules is a tragic joke, busses are targeted by criminals and the taxi industry. Seriously what do they actually do to improve a terrible situation? No doubt this court challenge will be treated with the usual contempt witnessed repeatedly when these “public officials” are challenged. Nauseating!!!

  • Neil Parker says:

    Once upon a time the ANC was a criminal organisation. Now – sadly – it seems to be living up to expectations whilst honest, hard working people end up (literally) in the firing line. Let’s not forget Babita and many other whistle blowers. Let’s not forget the similar “keystone cops” type response to the attempted assassination of Andre de Ruyter. Let’s not forget Frans Mathipa and SANDF death squads. And let us as citizens support – one hundred percent – our brave press shining a spotlight in every dark corner. To the assassination jackals, we are coming after you.

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