The City of Cape Town is urging the South African Police Service to arrest those responsible for violent attacks on Cape Town’s public transport system. The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron writes
On Saturday afternoon, 23 September 2017, a bus driver from the Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) was shot and killed in an attempted armed robbery in Nyanga while behind the wheel of a bus. I am shocked and sickened by this senseless attack and convey my condolences to the family of the deceased.
This attack followed in the same week that protesting minibus-taxi drivers stoned several MyCiTi and GABS buses on Monday, 18 September 2017.
The protesters also set alight and burnt out a MyCiTi bus on the N2 highway and torched a GABS bus in Delft on the same day. Two passengers, including a pregnant commuter, were injured during these attacks. Apart from the violence, bus drivers and personnel at MyCiTi stations across the city were threatened.
I am urging the South African Police Service (SAPS) to investigate these incidents with vigour and the necessary urgency, as we cannot allow criminals to undermine and sabotage our public transport system.
Our public transport system is already taking strain due to the unreliability of commuter rail. Over the past two to three years, our critical but ailing commuter rail system has also endured relentless attacks and vandalism. These have left the Metrorail service limping along, with devastating consequences for our commuters and our city’s economy.
The constant attacks on Metrorail and the vandalism of the ageing infrastructure have displaced millions of commuters.
The latest data indicates that there were 2,7 million fewer rail journeys in Cape Town per month in 2016/17 when compared with 2015/16. This confirms that a significant number of commuters have already transferred to road-based transport – be it in private vehicles, or road-based public transport such as minibus-taxis or buses.
The ongoing targeting of all of our public transport infrastructure and operators requires special attention from our justice cluster.
The Criminal Matters Amendment Act, which provides for stricter bail conditions and harsher sentences, including up to 30 years imprisonment for those caught and convicted of destruction of essential infrastructure such as transportation, has been in operation for over a year. It was intended to act as a deterrent against rising attacks on essential infrastructure but it will serve no purpose unless perpetrators are apprehended, prosecuted and convicted.
In recent times we have seen Metrorail trains, GABS buses, MyCiTi buses and stations destroyed and damaged in attacks that more often than not have nothing to do with transportation. Our transport infrastructure has become an easy target. Those who perpetrate these crimes need to face certain prosecution and conviction if we are to save the transport infrastructure we have from total destruction.
We need the public and all of Cape Town to support us in protecting our assets – most importantly the personnel who are the backbone of our bus services, and secondly, the resources that make these services possible, such as our buses, stations and bus shelters.
I am urging anyone with information about the violent attacks to please contact their nearest police station. The public can also report vandalism and other important information to the City’s Transport Information Centre on 0800 65 64 63.
All of our residents must join us in condemning the violent attacks. It is the communities who are dependent on public transport for their mobility who suffer the most – key among them women and children. Lower-income families spend, on average, up to 43% of their monthly income on transport costs and in some parts of Cape Town the costs are as high as 60%.
In the meantime, I want to assure residents that the City of Cape Town will do everything within our means to ensure commuter safety, as well as the safety of those employed by our public transport services.