Cape Town - The attacks on greater Cape Town’s public transport network is doing “terrible damage” to the regional economy, the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned.
Nyanga was tense but calm on Tuesday morning, unlike on Monday when at least a dozen Golden Arrow buses came under attack – eight torched and gutted, four seriously damaged by rocks and many left with shattered windows. Each bus costs about R1.7 million – taking the damage on Monday alone to more than R15 million.
But even more damaging was the loss of man hours and the disruption to tens of thousands of workers’ lives, warned chamber president Janine Myburgh on Tuesday morning.
“People don’t know if they’ll be able to get to or from work, some are staying away, some employers are insisting their employees take a safety-first approach – even if it means missing work.
“The net result is a huge disruption to hundreds of businesses. And this comes on top of the weeks and months of disruptions to the railway service at the hands of arsonists and thieves,” she said.
“These attacks on our public transport network are being perpetrated by a tiny number of criminals but the impact on our entire economy is of grave concern. They are holding our economy to ransom.”
A taxi driver was killed; at least a dozen Golden Arrow and two MyCiTi buses were terminals, with several vans stationed at hot spots.
This follows an announcement by Golden Arrow on Monday its buses would stay out of Nyanga, Delft and Mfuleni until the safety of drivers and passengers could be guaranteed.
The city’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said on Monday night: “We have brought in extra staff and lengthened working hours. We are going to have deployments for the next 24 hours in the area.”
Meanwhile, mayor Patricia de Lille said it was clear on Monday’s attacks on buses were “well-orchestrated and designed to make the city ungovernable”.
She said late on Monday: “It is worth noting that the city has received reports that Ses’Khona leader Loyiso Nkohla recently made public threats to physically destroy the (MyCiTi) N2 Express service.
“Furthermore, he is alleged to have been in Nyanga (on Monday) morning, which was the epicentre of the public violence.”
But Nkohla said he had nothing to do with it: “Patricia de Lille is mad. She is unable to run the municipality. Everything bad that happens is attributed to Ses’khona.”
He was not present when the buses were burnt and had found out about it via WhatsApp.
“We have nothing to do with the violence of the taxis. The taxi drivers have their own issues with the taxi owners.”
He did concede, however, that Ses’khona would soon announce its plans to stop the MyCiTi N2 Express service.
“We are not against improvement of public transport but it’s inconsistent improvement,” he said. “In Cape Town, you wait in a nice glass station. When you come to Khayelitsha, people get cold and wet because there is no nice station or bus stop.”
Mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron said the violence was probably the latest chapter in a widespread “ungovernability campaign”.
“This was too well co-ordinated to be anything else.”
Rioters ran amok from 6am at the Nyanga bus terminus and along Govan Mbeki and New Eisleben roads.
Police said a taxi driver, 39, from Zwelitsha in Nyanga, was shot dead at the Nyanga taxi rank. Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said it appeared the driver’s gun had been stolen.
While the violence was initially suspected to be the work of striking taxi drivers who abandoned their vehicles, cancelling all services in a protest against “heavy fines”, the local associations and the city have distanced the industry from the attacks.
Golden Arrow spokeswoman Bronwen Dyke said the violence began at about 6am, when bus drivers arrived at the Nyanga terminus to find an angry crowd, who identified themselves, as taxi drivers waiting for them.
“Things started to get a bit heavy – there were police present but we’ve been told they just watched as the crowd targeted two buses,” Dyke said.
They pulled the drivers out of the buses, beating them up before petrol-bombing the vehicles. Rioters went on to torch five more Golden Arrow buses.
Dyke said the crowd had another four buses in their sights but Golden Arrow teams managed to recover the vehicles before they could be set alight. The drivers were beaten up.
At the same time, a MyCiTi bus was stopped by criminals in Mew Way, Herron said. “The passengers were forced to disembark but the driver managed to drive away before the thugs could set the bus alight.”
A MyCiti bus had been stoned on the N2 near Borcherds Quarry.
“Miraculously nobody was injured. However, the windows were badly damaged and the bus had to be withdrawn from service.”
Herron said the call was made to cancel services on the N2 Express to Khayelitsha at about 11.20am.
On Monday afternoon the burnt-out shells of two buses still stood at the Nyanga terminus. Police had cordoned off the area and a police Nyala was parked nearby.
It was eerily quiet at the usually busy rank. Behind the terminus, hundreds of empty taxis stood out in the sun.
Many in the affected areas were unable to get to work or school.
The provincial Education Department noted a spike in absenteeism.
“Due to violent protests in Nyanga and Philippi on Tuesday, it was unsafe for our learners and educators to travel to school,” Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said on Monday.
“As a result, we experienced high absenteeism with learners and educators. This is unacceptable. This is valuable school time that our learners have now lost out on.”
When asked about the delays caused by attacks, spokesman Sipho Maseti from the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association denied taxi drivers were involved.
“It is just not something they would do.”
Speaking at the association’s boardroom at the Nyanga rank, Maseti confirmed taxi drivers had gone on strike over “the city’s campaign to wipe out the local taxi industry”.
It was common for “tsotsis” to hijack protests as a cover for criminal activity.
“It is what we think happened here; they robbed the drivers and they burnt the buses to destroy the evidence. Our drivers are elders and would not do something like that.”
However, he did not rule out the possibility some taxi drivers might have been involved.
The taxi association was set to meet the mayor on Tuesday morning to discuss issues around fines levied on drivers.
Herron confirmed the meeting would take place. He said the N2 Express service to Khayelitsha had resumed on Monday afternoon. “Law enforcement officials are monitoring the area and will duly inform Transport for Cape Town should the situation change.”
Makeshift bus stations have been set up on the corner of Main Road and Stellenbosch Arterial; Malibu Circle and on the Borcherds Quarry Road turn-off on the N2.
Additional reporting by Zodidi Dano, Natasha Prince, Chelsea Geach and Ilse Fredericks