Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, City of Cape Town
At around 18:00 yesterday evening, 2 October 2017, a mob attacked one of the City of Cape Town’s Dial-a-Ride (DAR) vehicles at the corner of Symphony Way and Stellenbosch Arterial.
The windows of the vehicle were stoned. Inside, four commuters with special needs were sitting strapped in their seats with nowhere to go. These commuters are among the most vulnerable members of our society as they need special care – either because they are using wheelchairs, or are blind or partially sighted. The DAR service is a contracted service provided by the City for those residents with special needs who cannot make use of conventional public transport services.
I am shocked and horrified by this attack.
I cannot begin to imagine the fear these commuters must have felt while being attacked – three of them are wheelchair users and one commuter is blind.
The driver contacted the police and ambulance services. Another DAR vehicle was dispatched to the scene to replace the damaged vehicle as it was attacked on both sides, with at least three smashed windows and three flat tyres. One of the passengers was taken to hospital after the incident and was discharged early this morning.
It goes without saying that the passengers and the driver are all traumatised and shocked.
It is not an exaggeration to state that the continual attacks on our public transport system have now reached a crisis point. We have received reports that a Golden Arrow bus was also attacked and torched in the same area yesterday evening.
The motive for these attacks is unknown.
We are facing an unacceptable norm where protestors take out their anger and frustration on public transport services on a regular basis. In so doing, they are posing a serious threat to the safety of our commuters and our personnel, and damaging assets that come at a great cost to replace or repair.
Over the weekend two men boarded a bus from the Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) in Lansdowne and robbed passengers.
On 23 September 2017, a bus driver from GABS was shot and killed in an attempted armed robbery in Nyanga while behind the wheel of a bus. This attack followed in the same week that protesting minibus-taxi drivers stoned several MyCiTi and GABS buses on 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 once again calling on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to investigate these incidents with urgency. We cannot allow criminals to undermine and sabotage our public transport system.
We need a commitment from all of those within the safety and security realm to arrest those responsible. Crime intelligence work must be stepped up so that these attacks can be prevented.
The ongoing targeting of all of our public transport infrastructure and operators requires special attention from our justice cluster.
I have stated before that the Criminal Matters Amendment Act 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.
This Act has been in operation for over a year. It is intended as a deterrent against 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 responsible need to face certain prosecution and conviction if we are to save the transport infrastructure we have from total destruction.
The public and all of Cape Town must 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.