01 Passengers disembark from a SA Roadlink bus that arrived at Johannesburg Park station. Picture: Antoine de Ras. 05/01/10

Cape Town -

When they set off from Cape Town the last thing they expected was the road trip from hell.

But this is exactly what a group of passengers got when they boarded an SA Roadlink coach bound for Joburg on Tuesday afternoon.

“Yoh, I don’t even know what happened,” said passenger David Mautjana, who just hours earlier had found himself in the middle of a bizarre confrontation with the bus driver.

According to the shaken Khayelitsha resident, there was trouble from the start. The coach that was due to leave at 11am was delayed by more than four hours after the driver apparently struggled to find diesel to refuel his vehicle.

Mautjana, who had relatives waiting for him in Joburg, was thankful just to be setting off when the bus rolled in shortly after 3pm.

But relief turned into frustration when the coach was pulled over before the Huguenot tollgate on the N1.

“He failed the inspection because the back lights weren’t working. He didn’t seem to care, he just got back in and turned the bus around.”

Mautjana said the driver then made his way through the mountains to avoid the toll gate.

“He was driving 60km/h with 65 passengers onboard, it was crazy… It’s like he was trying to make up the time he had lost.

“So I said to the assistant driver that he must slow down. We won’t be getting anywhere with this crazy driving.”

A few minutes later, the driver brought the bus to a sudden stop.

“That’s when I heard that the driver wants me to apologise to him otherwise he won’t drive anywhere. I had to stand up in front of everyone and say: ‘Driver can you please drive’?”

“But not only that, I must tell him what speed he should be travelling at.”

The driver slowed down, but according to Mautjana and some of the other passengers, the reckless driving didn’t stop. At many points, the 47-year-old was not even sure whether he would make it home alive as the bus weaved between 18-wheelers and vans on the national highway.

Fellow passenger Bamidele Samuel said the driver even missed a scheduled stop in Bloemfontein and was forced to backtrack over 96km, extending an already bloated journey.

The Blue Downs resident said that to make matters worse, the bus hadn’t even finished its trip – stopping in Pretoria and forcing many passengers to take the Gautrain into the


“I will never be taking these buses again,” said Samuel. “This has just been scary and exhausting.”

Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said they often took SA Roadlink buses off the road for being unroadworthy.

When he was alerted to the condition of this bus he contacted national authorities to pull it over. But by the time the Road Traffic Management Corporation made contact with some of the passengers on board, the bus had already dropped them off and turned back towards Cape Town.

“Some of this company’s buses have even been impounded because they were operating without a valid operating licence.

“I can’t say exactly how many of their buses we have pulled over, but of all the long-distance carrier buses we take off the road, SA Roadlink definitely stands out,” said Africa.

Despite numerous attempts to contact the bus operator’s head office, and various spokespeople, the Cape Argus was unable to make contact with someone from the company to comment on the incident.

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Cape Argus