Chaos as MyCiTi drivers strike
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Cape Town - An unprotected MyCiTi bus drivers’ strike over wages turned violent late on Wednesday when Dunoon residents burned tyres and police responded with stun guns, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Uniformed drivers as well as residents screamed and scattered as police officers shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Stones were lobbed at police vehicles by angry residents.
The strike began as a wage demonstration at the Table View bus station 6km away. It was peaceful, but hugely disruptive to the masses of commuters trying to get home from school and work.
After negotiations with MyCiTi vehicle operating company Kidrogen again resulted in no wage increase, some drivers parked their buses across the dedicated MyCiTi lane, blocking peak-hour commuter traffic.
Their anger was mostly directed at Kidrogen, although they called on the City of Cape Town to intervene.
Twelve buses were abandoned, although more than 100 drivers joined the strike. Police rounded the drivers up and escorted them on foot along the red-tarred MyCiTi lane to the Dunoon depot 6km away.
As he walked, bus driver Sibusiso Den said their working conditions were unacceptable, and that all efforts at negotiating had failed.
“The management doesn’t care about us,” he said. “We get up at 3am, we work until 7pm, and we only get paid for seven hours. We are the guys loading passengers on to the buses, and we are only paid R5 000 a month.”
Den said the strike was a last resort, but that it would remain peaceful and the police response was unnecessary.
“The police mustn’t chase us like this. We’ve done nothing wrong. We are unarmed, we would never burn anything, and we’re not going to do any damage.”
Den said things would be worse when they arrived in Dunoon, because residents would join in the strike and things would escalate.
“It’s going to be worse there – the community will come and join us,” he said. “We wanted to keep this away from the community.”
Sure enough, when the crowd of drivers arrived at Usasaza station near the bus depot, some Dunoon residents joined in with tyres and stones. Periodicially buses came through, but were blocked by tyres. Some of the drivers moved the tyres and cleared the way.
A man not wearing a MyCiTi uniform threw the tyres back into the road, and soon they were on fire. The bang of a stun grenade sentpeople running for the nearby shacks, some hit by rubber bullets or tear gas as they went.
The drivers said they would continue to protest on Thursday.
“We need answers, otherwise we’re going to close down this depot,” said one driver who did not wish to be named. “We know it’s illegal but we have to do something. The anger and frustration is growing.”
He had left the taxi industry to become a MyCiTi driver because he was promised better wages and working conditions. Now, he said, he was hungry, disappointed and determined to get a response from his employer.
“We are looking for the truth from between the city and Kidrogen. Life is expensive. We need to earn a reasonable salary.”
Kidrogen directed all media inquiries to the City of Cape Town, but Brett Herron, of Transport for Cape Town, said the dispute was a matter between the drivers and Kidrogen.
“While the drivers’ grievances are a matter between the employer and its employees, the city is extremely concerned about the impact of the strike on commuters.”
The routes affected were Table View, Dunoon, Atlantis, and feeder routes to Table View and Century City.
“The city apologises for the inconvenience caused and requests commuters to please be patient.”