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Calls for urgent intervention and probe of Intercape bus attacks after another driver shot

Cape Town – An urgent meeting was held on Tuesday between the Western Cape Government and the management of Intercape Bus after yet another attack led to the shooting of a bus driver.

There have been a spate of attacks on Intercape buses in the Western and Eastern Cape over the past few months.

Western Cape MEC for mobility, Daylin Mitchell said local government has taken steps to ensure the matter has been brought to the attention of relevant authorities in the security and enforcement sectors for urgent co-ordination of investigation and intervention.

The latest attack took place on Sunday, when a gunman opened fired on a bus along Jakes Gerwel Drive as the vehicle was en route to the Cape Town CBD’s long-distance rank to load passengers.

Western Cape MEC of mobility Daylin Mitchell has condemned the latest attack in the strongest terms. File Picture

The driver was hit and two other occupants of the bus were fortunate to escape unharmed.

“Since the reported spike in attacks on Intercape buses, the Western Cape Government has taken steps to ensure that the matter is brought to the attention of relevant authorities in the security and enforcement environment for the urgent co-ordination of investigations and interventions,” Mitchell said.

“We activated watching briefs to monitor court cases linked to attacks on public transport operators across the province.”

In August, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting an urgent meeting and co-ordinated intervention at national level to combat the extortion and racketeering in the public transport sector.

Ramaphosa referred the matter to security cluster ministers, but action is still awaited.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa in August calling for intervention from national government. File Photo: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

“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 national government, specifically the President and his Transport Minister, to prioritise addressing the violence that continues to mar the long-distance bus industry.

“Public transport is already in a shocking state generally. We cannot allow criminals to bring anarchy to the bus industry too. 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,” Winde said.

Mitchell condemned the attack in the strongest terms and said the continued attacks on long-distance buses constituted organised crime.

“I have instructed our officials to check and verify all long-distance bus operating licences and to impound all vehicles that are operating without – or contrary to the conditions of operating licences,” he said.

Western Cape MEC for police oversight and community safety Reagan Allen said the attacks are a clear attempt to destabilise the long-distance bus industry. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

“I have reiterated my instruction to Provincial Traffic to monitor long-distance 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 private vehicles along key routes between the Western Cape and neighbouring provinces.

“The Western Cape Government will not condone criminal acts of extortion, will not negotiate with — nor try to appease – criminals, and will not allow the rule of law to be compromised.

“Our first priority will always be to ensure the safety of commuters – and we will support every effort to root out the small criminal element that seeks to hijack the public transport industry for their own criminal agenda,” Mitchell said.

Western Cape MEC for police oversight and community safety Reagan Allen said the attacks were blatant and a clear attempt to destabilise the long-distance bus industry.

“Criminals that have little to no regard for life should be behind bars, and I call on all law enforcement agencies to arrest those responsible for this attack. I also urge anyone with information that will assist in the apprehension of the suspects to make it available to law enforcement,” Allen said.

“We have activated our Court Watching Briefs to monitor the previous case. It’s concerning that the previous matter has been postponed and that the alleged perpetrator is currently out on bail of R1 000.

“He is due to back in court on February 21, 2023. Just as we cannot allow perpetrators to get away with these crimes, we will hold SAPS accountable should there be any shortcomings in how they investigate or handle these cases. We should all play our role to ensure safety for commuters and all citizens in general,” Allen said.

The DA in the Western Cape said its standing committee on transport will be writing to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to urge him to immediately act on the Eastern Cape High Court’s ruling to implement strategies to mitigate long-distance bus attacks.

The party’s spokesperson on transport, MPP Ricardo MacKenzie, said this shooting comes despite the order by the court for Mbalula to protect the company, its drivers and passengers from ongoing attacks.

“Minister Mbalula was instructed to take proactive measures to stop attacks on buses owned by Intercape, that are reportedly being carried out by disgruntled taxi associations.

“He has done nothing to bring change to save lives and protect infrastructure. Contestation over the issuing of licenses, bus routes and fares are said to be behind these wanton acts of violence.

“Bangikhaya Machana, a 35-year-old driver who was shot three times at Intercape’s Cape Town depot earlier this year, has already lost his life, and there have been over 150 violent incidents involving long-distance buses.

“Despite these cases, Minister Mbalula denies that he is not responding appropriately enough to address the situation affecting long-distance buses, as seen by his decision to appeal the High Court’s ruling,” MacKenzie said.

He went further, stating that the violent crimes unit established to focus on transport-related violence was not doing enough to resolve the issue.

“It is unfathomable that commuters in the Western Cape will lose another affordable method of transportation, in the form of long-distance buses, after already losing efficient trains under Minister Mbalula’s leadership,” said MacKenzie.

“The Standing Committee was informed by SAPS in August this year that no arrests had been made in relation to Intercape attacks since April 2021. It is concerning that Minister Mbalula has not taken the necessary steps to protect these companies and their drivers.

“The lack of political will to address the extortion issues within the transport sector will only result in more lives being lost,” Mackenzie added.