File picture: Luke MacGregor / Reuters.

George - The Eff has entered the fray in the GO George bus saga, demanding the reversal of all cancelled permits and for sanctions against 30 taxi operators from the area be lifted.

This comes after the Western Cape Provincial Regulatory Entity (PRE) found 30 of the 32 taxi operators, from the Uncedo George Taxi Association, guilty of violating the conditions of their operating licences and the code of conduct for minibus-taxi operators.

The section 79 inquiry dealt with the violent protest action that took place in George in August 2015, during which roads were barricaded, road infrastructure damaged and four Go George buses were set alight.

CCTV footage and police reports were used to identify vehicles used during the illegal protest action. The tribunal began in Oudtshoorn in September last year and 40 operating licences were cited as part of the inquiry.

Transport and Public Works spokesman Byron la Hoe said two operators had been acquitted by the PRE.

“These are operators whose vehicles were parked at the Lawaaikamp Community Centre after the protest action,” he added.

La Hoe said the tribunal had identified more taxi operators who were part of the protest action in August last year, and a second section 79 inquiry will be held soon.

“Although only one operating licence was cancelled by the PRE, the remaining operating licences were suspended for extended periods.

“A total of 18 operating licences were suspended for six months, a further 18 for 12 months and one operating licence for an 18-month period,” La Hoe said.

The sanctions require that:

- Operating licences must be surrendered at the PRE offices before the close of business this Friday.

- Vehicles specified in these operating licences may not be used to provide any public transport services for the period of suspension and may not be linked to other operating licences.

- No transactions will be allowed on any of the affected operating licences.

- Where an affected vehicle is observed providing a public transport service, it may result in the cancellation of the operating licence.

“It is unfortunate that affected operators will not be able to generate an income during the suspension periods, but operators have to realise that there are consequences for illicit actions.

“The length of the suspension is an indication of how seriously we view these transgressions,” La Hoe added.

‘Clear signal’

But the EFF did not share the government's stance that the decision sends a clear signal that violent behaviour would not be tolerated. Instead, the EFF felt it showed a disregard for black lives and taxi operators.

EFF Western Cape leader Bernard Joseph said the entire matter could have been resolved in such a manner where all stakeholders could have been involved from the onset. “We demand that all cancelled permits be declared valid again,” he said.

“Furthermore we demand the removal of all sanctions against the 30 taxi operators. Joseph added that the oppressive nature of negotiations had led to the uprising.

“As the EFF we do not tolerate violence, but those responsible for orchestrating the violence behind council desks need to seriously consider their contribution,” he added.

‘Stop the vandalism’

Meanwhile, the South African National Roads Agency Limited has condemned the vandalism of road infrastructure along the N2 between York Street Interchange and Garden Route Mall, urging residents in the surrounding areas and those of other townships to assist in ending the on-going destruction.

The damage to the infrastructure has had a major impact on the completion of the R43 million project, the budget allocated by the Treasury for road infrastructure made up of tax payers’ money.

Sanral regional manager Kobus van der Walt said: “The deliberate and wilful destruction of the network jeopardises not only the safety of pedestrians from various communities which it is designed to assist, but also the livelihood of a number of workers on the project.

"We know 40 percent of all deaths on South African roads are pedestrians. They are the most vulnerable group of all road users, and road safety is an important priority for Sanral.”

Increased risk

He said part of the two metre-high welded mesh fence erected on the N2 separating the pathways from the freeway had been damaged and would need to be replaced. The destruction of the fences meant an increased risk of straying animals, allowing them access to the freeway, which could result in accidents and death.

Van der Walt said the estimated target spend on SMMEs working on the project amounted to R24 million, while the expenditure on labour amounted to R12 million. About 210 workers are laying bricks, building walkways and erecting fences.

“This project has the added advantage of providing employment to a greater number of people from George area,” he said.

Among other things reported damaged are the electrics housed in concrete poles which are supposed to carry 177 energy-efficient LED lights.

A key feature of the project is a new pedestrian bridge constructed along the N2, providing access for pedestrians and cyclists to move safely across the railway line at Meul River from their homes to their places of work. It has also suffered infrastructure damage, caused by fire which led to the burning of the rubber bridge bearings.

“I’m appealing to leaders of the local community to help put a stop to the vandalism of infrastructure, which has been designed to better the lives of those living in the George area,” said Van der Walt.

Cape Argus

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