There was commuter chaos in Cape Town at peak hour on Wednesday morning after MyCiTi bus drivers went on strike, trains were delayed, roads were flooded in heavy rains and car crashes occurred on major routes.
A wildcat strike by a group of MyCiTi drivers this morning left scores of bus commuters with little option but to seek alternative transport.
This, as heavy downpours continued around the city.
A quick tour of the MyCiTi’s Salt River route confirmed that dozens of people were standing on platforms in the rain, waiting for buses that would never arrive.
Some commuters inquired politely, via Twitter and telephone helplines, about the delays.
Others slammed the City of Cape Town’s newest public transport system.
The Hout Bay Civic Association (HBCA) issued an angry statement, calling for an apology from Mayoral Committee Member for Transport Brett Herron for failing to anticipate the strike and warn commuters.
Roscoe Jacobs, the association’s secretary, said that he had waited in the rain with other commuters in Hangberg, not knowing that the bus would not arrive.
“This is a clear sign of the failure of having only one mode of public transport,” read a statement issued on behalf of the association.
“(We) demand that the city put Golden Arrow and taxis back on the Hout Bay and Cape Town route. In doing so allowing residents the choice of the mode of public transport.”
Herron said that drivers from the Transpeninsula Investments vehicle operating company (VOC), which operates CBD routes, the airport route and the Hout Bay route, made no prior announcement about the intention to strike. They simply did not report for work.
The strike started at 5am and nine MyCiTi routes were affected during the morning peak. Drivers for the MyCiTi service are not employed directly by the City of Cape Town, but by one of several VOCs.
“The City arranged that drivers employed by the other VOC’s assist with the service, but the strikers have been barricading the gates at the depot in Prestwich Street in Green Point this morning, preventing the MyCiTi buses from exiting,” Herron said.
“The situation is being monitored and the (police) are assisting in allowing the MyCiTi buses to leave the depot. At this stage the reason for the unprotected strike is unknown.”
But the drivers, who gathered behind the Green Point bus depot, were clear about their grievances which date back to 2011.
They claim that low basic pay, no pay when under training and problematic contracts were among the main reasons for their sudden strike.
A lack of proper rest time led to accidents – apparently 36 crashes since February 15. One driver who fell asleep behind the wheel and was in a crash was apparently ordered to repay the company for a bus at R200 000.
“We were trying to negotiate with management since 2011 and then, as soon as we took them to the bargaining council, they decided not to recognise us,” said Zamuxolo Tiso, of the Professional Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (PTAWU).
His colleague of the Transport and Omnibus Workers’ Union (TOWU), Rutherford Kiet, said drivers were required to work 195 hours a month minimum and ended up taking home just over R5 000.
The two union representatives admitted the strike was not protected and that the drivers had decided to walk off after reaching deadlock with the company. Transpeninsula management would not comment and directed inquiries to Herron’s office.
The death of a pedestrian, who was killed when trying to cross the tracks between Nyanga and Heideveld, also contributed to the delays.
Heavy rains overnight and this morning contributed further to commuters’ woes.
City Traffic spokesman Richard Coleman reported 10 crashes on Cape roads this morning.
At publication time, there was a vehicle alight on the N1 incoming, near the N7, which obstructed the right and centre lanes.
Seven roads flooded, including the N1 at Koeberg, the N2 at Somerset West and the M3 at Newlands.
Affected MyCiTi services