Durban bus protest ‘a cry for help’ by drivers threatened with death
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Durban - RUSH-HOUR traffic came to a standstill in the greater Durban area yesterday as drivers employed by Tansnat, which operates the municipal bus fleet, parked their vehicles across highways, preventing vehicles from getting past.
The drivers say they sent their bosses a memorandum a week ago, asking for R26 000 salaries, bonuses, medical aid, housing allowances and other benefits.
They say they now fear for their lives after the memorandum was responded to with a threat from a Tansnat official, who stated that it was the company’s way, the highway or death.
Blocking major highways and roads was a cry for help, they said, and they later took their grievances to mayor Mxolisi Kaunda.
According to reports, buses blocked many major routes from 5am, severely affecting morning traffic.
Roads reported to have been affected were the N2 (north and south bound), M19 off-ramps, Newlands off-ramp, KwaMashu off-ramp, KwaMashu highway (M25) and others. The routes were reopened at about 8am.
Protesters also blocked Soldiers Way all the way through to the city hall, and briefly blocked the intersections of Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) and Dorothy Nyembe (Gardiner) streets, and of Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) and Samora Machel (Aliwal) streets.
A memorandum they handed over yesterday states that they could no longer work under Tansnat because they had no rights to speak up - if they did, they were threatened.
They alleged that some drivers had been shot and killed, and there was no investigation into those shootings. The Daily News was unable to verify the allegations.
A Tansnat official had allegedly told drivers they had to do as they were told - if not, they should leave the job or get killed.
The drivers said they no longer wanted to be employed by Tansnat.
They want to work for the eThekwini Municipality and wanted a specific date on which the buses would return to municipal management.
Upon receiving the memorandum, Kaunda encouraged drivers to return to work.
He said blocking roads had stopped the economy, which had already been dented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is not true that we are not doing anything to bring you under the municipality. The meeting we had yesterday is to discuss the agenda, the details of taking buses. That point is on the agenda,” said Kaunda.
“The law says municipalities must create a public entity to run buses. It is not a single company, it’s a council entity that will be under the municipality which will run municipal buses,” he said.
Kaunda said the entity should have started operating in May and the municipality had advertised a tender, however, Tansnat had taken the municipality to court over the tender.
He said he had asked the city manager to set up a meeting with the drivers’ unions, which drivers could also attend.
While at the protest, the drivers received a warning from Tansnat that they were on an illegal strike, vandalising buses and illegally using company property. It warned that the drivers’ conduct could cause them to be dismissed should they not return to duty before 11.30am yesterday.
Tansnat chief operating officer Vickesh Maharaj said the company distanced itself from the alleged threats made by an inspector and that appropriate action would be taken.
He said an issue was raised by union Retusa on August 28, and there had been a discussion between an inspection staffer and a group of drivers.
“It is alleged that the inspector threatened drivers. On receipt of a complaint, the inspector was suspended on August 28, pending a disciplinary inquiry. Charges are being formulated pending an investigation,” said Maharaj.