Cape Town - Hundreds of people loaded with luggage sat hopefully on benches at the Stock Road long-distance bus terminus in Philippi on Sunday in the hope of getting a last-minute ride home to the Eastern Cape.
The taxi rank, which operates from the Joe Qgabi traffic centre, was swamped with people on Sunday, some who said they had slept at the terminus to ensure securing a seat on a bus.
“I have been here since on Sunday and all buses had departed,” said Nokwanda Waleni who wanted to go to Idutywa for the holidays.
“I couldn’t leave the terminus because I need to get home.”
Waleni said that although it had been difficult to get a seat on the bus this year, she often travelled on the Stock Road buses.
“I trust these buses and even at times when I don’t have money the owners allow us to travel on credit. It’s just safer for me.”
Entering the bus terminus travellers were met by “touters” who helped carry luggage and tried to find them a seat on buses heading for their destination. The touters had a robust, even aggressive approach, and often argued over travellers.
Once the travellers reached a bus they pay a R550 fare to the secretary, who was usually seated on the bus.
The two main routes are Lusikisiki and East London, with pit stops all along the way.
Bus owner Luthando Mlonzi, who was acting as a touter when the Cape Argus visited the terminus, said the Stock Road buses attracted many travellers.
“Unlike coastal liners we offer our passengers quality services. We collect them from their homes here in Cape Town, we do not limit their luggage and we even take in luggage that coastal liners would never allow,” he said.
This luggage, carried free, included fridges, four-burner stoves, doors and trunks.
Nomonde Milisi said she used these buses because they did not require bookings.
“I can’t afford coastal liners and this time of the year they are fully booked,” she said.
MEC for transport and public works Robin Carlisle said the Stock Road buses were licensed and regularly inspected.
“Within the Joe Qqabi interchange, there is a vehicle inspection station. Staff perform full checks on all buses. Once the bus has been inspected and has ‘passed’ the test, it gets issued with a roadworthy sticker… any traffic official on the road can see that the bus has been inspected and tested for roadworthiness.”
He said that so far there had been no fatalities on outward-bound buses from Stock Road, although there had been deaths on buses returning to the terminus.
Mlonzi said the busiest days were December 14, 15 and January 3.