A North West Star/ Botlhaba Transport bus and a car were set alight in Hammanskraal on Monday by angry commuters demanding an improved travelling experience and lower bus fares.
The commuters went on a rampage from the early hours, protesting against the higher fares due to come into effect on Tuesday.
The majority of people in the township did not go to work and opted to take their fight against the bus company to the streets. They threatened to “deal” with those who had gone to work.
From as early as 5am, the protesters forced passengers off the buses and ordered the drivers to park at a busy intersection in Old Warmbaths Road, blocking the road. The road was, by then, barricaded with stones and other objects.
The commuters wanted the bus company management to address them on issues they had raised, including the poor condition of buses, high fares and unreliability of the service.
There were conflicting reports about how the situation became volatile.
The protesters claimed they were peaceful and burnt a bus and car only after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse them.
Police have denied this, with spokesman Sergeant Obakeng Mabasa saying police intervened after the crowd set the vehicles alight.
Old Warmbaths Road was a no-go zone, and police were manning the area in Nyalas and preventing passing motorists from entering the area. Traders in the area had closed down their business for the day to protect themselves and their stock from looters.
The bus that had been torched earlier was stoned as it was being towed away. Police had to escort other buses out of the area.
The residents said they took to the streets and hauled out those who were already on the buses.
The intention was to force the bus company management to go to the area and address their concerns. “But instead of senior management, they sent a junior representative. That’s why we burnt the bus and the car he was travelling in,” said a protester.
The car was immediately torn to pieces by people looking for scrap metal and spare parts that might have survived the fire.
The group were adamant they no longer wanted North West Star buses in the area.
They said the buses were in poor condition, and “when it rains you have to carry an umbrella inside the bus to avoid getting to work or home soaked”.
The commuters said they would rather get a lift or use taxis to get to work than use North West Star/ Botlhaba Transport buses.
Just after 4pm, a delegation that had gone to meet the bus company reported back that the commuters’ problems would be addressed within seven days.
Why commuters are angry
* Bus fares too high.
* Buses in bad condition.
* Buses not punctual
* Commuters don’t like the recently introduced commuter smartcard system.