Durban - In the third incident in the past three months, a long-distance bus driver was shot while he was driving on the R56 between Ixopo and Richmond on Sunday.
After the driver was shot, he lost control of the City to City bus and 21 passengers were injured in the subsequent crash.
The City to City bus was travelling from Mthatha to Joburg via KwaZulu-Natal.
In September The Mercury reported that a Translux bus driver had been killed and another critically wounded after two drive-by shootings minutes apart on the R56 near Ixopo.
Translux and City to City buses are owned by holding company Autopax, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa).
In Sunday’s incident, police said the 58-year-old bus driver was near the Eston turn-off when an unknown gunman opened fire and shot him four times in the chest.
SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) general secretary Jack Mazibuko said the driver then lost control of the bus and it rolled 16m to the bottom of a valley.
“The driver, along with 21 injured passengers, was taken to hospital. The bus had been ferrying 32 passengers, some of them children, the youngest of which was 8 months old. Thankfully, the children were not hurt,” he said.
Prasa spokesperson Nana Zenani said the state-owned enterprise’s protection services, who were escorting the bus, reported the shooting.
Zenani said Prasa was actively investigating the incident and was continuing to provide protective services to escort Autopax buses.
“Prasa would like to encourage anyone with information to approach the police,” she said.
Satawu has called on the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, and law enforcement authorities to act against taxi operators implicated in the attacks on Autopax buses.
According to Mazibuko, after the September incident, workers at the parastatal embarked on a work stoppage and called for Mbalula to address them.
“Two weeks later, on September22, gunmen in seven cars arrived at Kokstad station in KZN and assaulted a driver and a saleswoman before forcing more than 330 passengers out of the buses,” said Mazibuko.
He said workers who feared for their safety embarked on another strike to highlight their concerns.
“Autopax approached the Labour Court for an urgent interdict. Satawu opposed the application and the judge agreed with us,” said Mazibuko.
Mazibuko added that Mbalula had met with various stakeholders, including taxi owners operating in the vicinity of the attacks.
Mazibuko added that those responsible for the attacks had no respect for life.
“It is clear they do not care about the community they service, but are only after profit and will stop at nothing to get it,” said Mazibuko.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said a case of attempted murder had been opened at Richmond police station for investigation.
The Transport Ministry had not responded to questions emailed to them by the reporter.