OFF GUARD: Thousands of people in Durban were stranded today by the surprise strike by taxi drivers and operators. RIGHT: Commuters try to cram on to a bus in KwaMashu todayPictures: Bongani Mbatha

Durban - Durban commuters have been left with the short end of the stick again as the city’s bus service was once again delayed – this time because of a diesel shortage.

This comes after commuters were left stranded and frustrated last week when bus drivers staged a go-slow after they were not paid their salaries.

Tansnat, contracted by the municipality to run the Durban Transport bus services, had not paid its drivers their July salaries.

Municipality spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said last week they were aware of the bus delay after being informed by Tansnat on July 31.

“Tansnat management (said) that they are experiencing a labour dispute with drivers over payment of their salaries for July. Bus drivers have threatened not to honour the afternoon shift, which could result in the disruption of the service,” Mofokeng said at the time.

This issue was resolved last Friday.

General manager of Tansnat Durban Transport, John Wilkinson, told the Daily News on Wednesday that staff had been paid a day later. “They were supposed to be paid on July 31, but were instead paid on August 1.”

On Monday, the municipality issued another press statement related to disruptions. “eThekwini Municipality has today (Monday) received a notification from the municipal bus operator… that they are experiencing a diesel shortage in all their depots within the city, resulting in service interruption.”

He added: “The municipality wishes to apologise to all commuters for the inconvenience caused. We also request that customers try to make alternative travel arrangements during this interruption. We are engaging with the operator to ensure that this service is restored soon.”

Wilkinson said the matter would be resolved by this morning. “There was an issue, an internal problem, with the supplier, but there was no shortage as such.”

He declined to go into detail, but added that it had to do with payment. “What’s important is that the buses will be back on the road by (this morning),” he said.

He said the company had tried to alert commuters to the interruption through the city’s communications team and radio.

“Of course, we are regretful that the many commuters across Durban were affected, but we haven’t heard much feedback from them.”

Marcelle Dreyer, 56, a commuter who normally takes a bus from the Bluff to uMbilo, then a taxi from there to Musgrave where she works, said on Wednesday that in addition to paying for a prepaid bus pass, she had also been forced to shoulder the added burden of an additional taxi fare.

“Aside from that, it is not safe to be waiting for a bus, especially if you’re not sure if it will eventually arrive.”

She said using taxis had lengthened her time in transit.

For South Beach resident, George McDonald, whose 13-year-old granddaughter attends Northlands Girls’ High School, the bus interruptions had proven to be an inconvenience.

“Her aunt has been taking her to school, so she gets there late in the mornings. Also, this now leaves a big problem for students and parents as they have filled up cards/coupons which should be their bus fare for the remainder of the month,and now they have to find alternative transport.”

He said several other pupils at the bus stops this week had turned around and gone home. “We obviously don’t want to see kids staying at home just because of the bus service.”

Londiwe Jiyane, a Durban University of Technology student of uMlazi, last week said there were no buses from about 4pm until 6pm at the Workshop bus terminals.

She said her bus was supposed to arrive at 4.45pm, but only arrived at 6pm.

“They (the bus driver) said they were on go-slow because they were not being paid. People are complaining, and it’s even worse for us because our taxis drop us far from our homes. So we rely on buses, which then let us down,” said Jiyane.

“As a student this is very frustrating. We don’t always have cash every day and I used my last money to buy a weekly ticket. And our parents become very angry when we ask for extra cash for alternative transport,” Jiyane said.

Zinhle Magwaza, also of uMlazi, said she did not even know that buses were delayed because drivers were on strike.

“Most people arrived at about 4pm. Others had already tried calling the uMlazi bus depot to find out why there were no buses, but no one was picking up the phone,” Magwaza said.

Daily News