Rustenburg - Three buses were set alight in Ikageng near Rustenburg in an apparent war over routes, residents said on Wednesday.
"The buses transport learners to Kanana and Rankelenyane for free everyday. It is a service provided by the government, now members of Nostoa (Northern Scholar Transport Operative Association) have problem with the buses because they claim the buses are taking them out of business," said resident Lucky Mogale.
He said on Tuesday around 1am, the buses were torched, leading to residents blocking the road and demanding the arrest of the perpetrators.
"It is not about service delivery issues, we want those responsible for burning the buses to be arrested."
A member of the local transport committee which oversees the bus service taking the children to school, but who did not wanted to be named for fear of reprisal, said a security guard saw four armed men dousing one bus with petrol before setting it alight, and called committee members through the two-way radio.
"We rushed to the scene. On arrival, a VW Golf sped off and the bus was burning. One man ran towards the filling station and disappeared. The fire from the first bus spilled over to the second bus and the third bus caught fire in the same manner," he said.
"We managed to push a fourth bus away, saving it from the raging fire. Members of Nostoa threatened to burn down the buses starting in Ikageng before going to Swartruggens. They are worried that they could no longer make money from transporting children to school because the buses were transporting children to school for free."
He said in on Monday, members of Nostoa had threatened to torch the buses and on Tuesday the buses were burnt.
"We suspect they have a hand in it."
He said they tried to convince them to be sub-contracted to the bus company, but they refused on the basis that the route belongs to Nostoa and wanted the full service and not to be sub-contractors.
He said on Tuesday night community members went to the house of one of the Nostoa members and threw stones at the house.
"They wanted to burn him inside the house. The police took him away."
Nostoa was reluctant to comment, saying their chairperson was in a meeting and was the only person who could comment.
"We are not staying in Ikageng, we are staying in Tlhabane. We do not know what happened there," said a woman who did not identify herself and refused to give the chairperson's name or cellphone number.
North West police said a case of malicious damage to property was opened for investigation.
The road between Lethabong and Rustenburg was barricaded with rocks and motorists were forced to negotiate their way through on Wednesday morning. Residents later cleared the roads and traffic was allowed to flow uninterrupted.