Golden Arrow taken to SA Human Rights Commission over bus robberies
Cape Town - The Ukubavimba Foundation, a social justice and socio-economic development organisation, has lodged an official complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission against Golden Arrow Bus Services (Gabs).
The complaint was lodged on Friday by a commuter and a member of the Ukubavimba Foundation, Deon Carelse, on behalf of all victims – passengers and bus drivers – who have been robbed while boarding their buses.
Carelse said he lodged the complaint to fight for the rights of the poor and marginalised people of the Cape Flats. His complaint comes after numerous robberies on the Gabs buses where commuters and drivers were robbed of their belongings, some at gunpoint.
Yesterday, another bus belonging to Gabs was robbed allegedly by three armed men, at a four-way stop between Site C and Site B in Khayelitsha. The latest incident happened a week after commuters were robbed by four armed men on a Gabs bus while travelling from Cape Town to Steenberg station.
A week before that incident, three armed men boarded a bus from Cape Town to Mitchells Plain and held up the driver and passengers, before alighting in Samora Machel – the route which was the target of criminals using the same modus operandi.
Carelse said Gabs needed to set up more safety measures in their buses. "This can't go on like this. It's a disgrace as passengers’ human rights have been violated."
SAHRC head Chris Nissen confirmed that his office was investigating the Gabs matter. However, people were not only robbed in buses, he said. "People are also robbed in minibus taxis, and when they go to work."
Nissen said his office would engage with Gabs to look at ways of making their buses safer for commuters.
Cosatu in the Western Cape met with Gabs management last week and will also meet with provincial police commissioner Yolisa Matakata about the Gabs matter.
Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said the office of the provincial commissioner was yet to receive Cosatu's correspondence.
Cosatu provincial secretary Malvern de Bruyn said the union would not sit idle and watch their members and commuters being assaulted and become victims of crime daily while Gabs management was doing nothing to protect them.
De Bruyn said, during their meeting with the Gabs management, they proposed that they consider and/or implement the installation of panic buttons, trackers and cameras in their buses.
He said they also proposed that they consider deploying armed security personnel to escort the buses, setting up a meeting with all stakeholders to discuss a proper safety plan, and meeting with community groups in the affected areas.
"They should also start a joint public awareness campaign and set up a meeting with the national ministers of police and transport, including their provincial counterparts and the City.
"We have given Gabs seven days to respond to our proposals and to provide us with a safety plan, failing which we will have no other option but to start a campaign against the company and to engage our lawyers to explore the possibility of a civil class action against the company on behalf of the affected workers and members," he said.
Gabs spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said the company was extremely concerned as it believed that every robbery was a robbery too many.
Dyke-Beyer said while they received some support from the government, police and law enforcement, they felt that was nowhere near what it needed to be to address the very serious issue.
"At times it does feel as if our passengers and drivers are being left to the mercy of these criminal elements without very much real concern from those who are constitutionally and ethically mandated to keep our drivers and passengers safe," she said.
Dyke-Beyer said no intervention from their side could replace the role that the authorities must play in investigating those crimes, arresting the perpetrators and ensuring they were brought to book.
"It is a sad indictment of our society that the government does not deem these crimes as serious enough to take real action," said Dyke-Beyer.
However, she said they were awaiting the launch of the dedicated bus enforcement unit, a partnership between Gabs, the City and the Province.
The City’s transport portfolio committee chairperson Angus McKenzie said it was a fact that the constitutional responsibility of fighting crime rested purely with the police, and for justice to be served it must have a functional criminal justice system.
McKenzie said in both of those cases they had seen major failure and collapse. As a result, crime went unpunished and criminals continued to commit crime with absolute impunity.
"I can confirm that Gabs has gone over and above what is expected to keep commuters, drivers and infrastructure safe. Gabs consistently reports to my portfolio committee and together has further invested in securing commuters, drivers and vehicles by also investing in law enforcement officers," said McKenzie.