Nyanga buses to get armed escorts

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IOL Golden Arrow Busses done CAPE ARGUS Burnt buses at Nyanga taxi rank. Six buses were torched and a man was killed when taxi drivers went on strike on Monday. Picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - Police and metro cops are escorting buses in and out of Nyanga on Tuesday to avoid a repetition of Monday’s violence in which a taxi driver was killed, 11 Golden Arrow and two MyCiTi buses were attacked, thousands of commuters were stranded and schools were emptied.

This follows an announcement by Golden Arrow on Monday that 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, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said it was clear Monday’s attacks on the 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 (yesterday) morning, which was the epicentre of the public violence.”

IOL golden arrow8832 DONE Firefighters battle to extinguish a Golden Arrow bus set alight in Nyanga. Picture: Cindy Waxa CAPE ARGUS

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.”

Nkohla said he was not present when the buses were burnt, and had found out about it on 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”, adding: “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 service in a protest against “heavy fines”, both the local associations and the city have distanced the industry from the attacks.

Golden Arrow spokeswoman Bronwen Dyke said the violence began around 6am when bus drivers arrived at the Nyanga terminus to find an angry crowd of people 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 on 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.”

In a separate incident, another MyCiti bus was stoned on the N2 highway 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 way 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 wreckage 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.

Most commuters were unable to travel to work or school. The provincial Education Department noted a spike in absenteeism.

“Due to violent protests in Nyanga and Philippi today, it was unsafe for our learners and educators to travel to school,” Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said.

“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.”

A court case involving activist Angy Peter, her husband and two others was delayed as a direct result of the attacks on the buses.

Arrangements were made for the group to be brought to court with a police escort today for the matter to proceed.

When asked about the delays caused by attacks, spokesman Sipho Maseti from the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association denied the involvement of any taxi drivers.

“It is just not something they would do.”

Speaking inside the association’s boardroom at the Nyanga rank, Maseti confirmed that taxi drivers had gone on strike over “the city’s campaign to wipe out the local taxi industry”.

However, he said 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.”

He did not rule out the possibility that some taxi drivers might have been involved.

The taxi association was set to meet the mayor on Tuesday morning to discuss issues over the heavy fines levied on drivers.

Herron confirmed that the meeting would take place. He said the N2 express way service to Khayelitsha had resumed yesterday 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

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Cape Argus



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