Pretoria – Bus company Putco has announced that it has temporarily suspended some of its buses this morning due to intimidation, amid the national shutdown unleashed by the Economic Freedom Fighters.
“Our staff buses were the first to encounter blocked roads and intimidation from demonstrators taking part in the national shutdown protest as they attempted to collect bus drivers aiming to report for duty in the early hours of Monday morning 20 March 2023,” Putco’s spokesperson Lindokuhle Xulu said.
He listed the following incidents reported by Putco’s operations teams before 9am today:
In Soweto, buses were stoned and damaged in the Braamfischer area.
“Passengers were forced to flee and the bus was abandoned. The bus has since been recovered,” said Xulu.
In Eldorado Park, Putco staff buses could not access the Vaal areas to pick up drivers for duty and Xulu said as a result, buses from Nancefield depot could not operate.
“A bus belonging to a Putco subcontractor was stoned by protesters in the same area,” he said.
In Soshanguve, Xulu said a bus was hijacked, and the female driver was pushed out of the bus before the vehicle was used to block a road in Dennilton.
“Police quickly recovered it and it was taken back to the local depot. Protesters also demanded that buses be made available to transport them to their rally and our security personnel acted swiftly and prevented them from entering the depot,” Xulu said.
He said Tshwane and Mpumalanga routes have been blocked and are unsafe to use, including the Moloto Road which is the main route between Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
“One staff bus from Mountain View had to take refuge at the KwaMhlanga police station,” Xulu said.
In Ekangala, Xulu said there were no passengers at most bus stops.
“The area is relatively peaceful, and police are patrolling the area,” he said.
“Putco has logged these and many other incidents to the command centre established by the government. All the operations teams are on high alert and monitoring developments.”
On Sunday, IOL reported that Putco had set aside its earlier decision to avoid operating today, announcing that it its buses would be on the roads today, following a meeting with Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga.
Xulu said the decision to stay away from the roads, amid the national shutdown called for by the EFF, was abandoned following an “urgent meeting” with Chikunga, where she “implored” the company to operate.
“This (decision to operate on Monday) follows an urgent meeting between the Minister of Transport, her deputy, senior government officials and the executives of the Southern Africa Bus Operators Association (Saboa) on Thursday afternoon, during which bus operators were urged to treat Monday as a normal business day and to provide public transport services as usual,” said Xulu.
“The minister implored Putco and other bus companies to operate and assured them that sufficient security measures were in place for the safety of passengers, staff, and the general public during the planned national shutdown.”
Xulu said government has provided assurance that “all efforts” have been made to ensure that law and order will be maintained today so that economic activities will not be affected.