News / 30 October 2014, 3:08pm / Natasha Bezuidenhout and Chelsea Geach
Cape Town - A MyCiti bus was damaged on Thursday morning after angry drivers pelted the vehicle and police with stones during an illegal protest in Dunoon that started on Wednesday.
On Wednesday the strike turned violent when residents burned tyres and police responded with stun guns, rubber bullets and tear gas.
Uniformed drivers, as well as residents, screamed and scattered as police officers shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Residents lobbed stones at police vehicles.
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana said about 100 bus drivers had gathered in the Dunoon-Table View area this morning.
“During their action, they are alleged to have pelted the police with stones and, as a result, one of the buses was damaged.
“A case of damage to property will be investigated.”
He said no arrests had been made and no injuries reported.
The City of Cape Town said it condemned the violence and intimidation by the small group of striking bus drivers, who are employed by Kidrogen, a MyCiTi vehicle operating company.
“The strike is illegal. Furthermore, violence is not a lawful or legitimate form of protest, no matter the reason for the grievances or unhappiness,” said Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, this morning.
Certain MyCiTi services have been disrupted since on Wednesday afternoon, with more disruptions to the service in Table View, Atlantis, Melkbosstrand and Century City during the peak hours of this morning.
According to reports, some of the striking drivers gathered at the Dunoon station blocking the dedicated bus lane, preventing MyCiTi buses from operating.
Commuters had to use alternative transport this morning to get to work and school.
One of the bus drivers who gathered at the Dunoon MyCiTi bus terminus at 9am, said the city should stop “playing tricks” on drivers.
“We are getting R5 000 to R7 000 a month and want R15 000.”
They were also demanding that the city “clear our names” for outstanding warrants and fines of up to R20 000.
Other complaints include that trainee drivers, whose contracts were due to come to an end in December, could become unemployed.
“Some are under training and being threatened that they won’t have a job once their contract end at the end of the year.
“These drivers were taxi drivers and the city said they want to empower them but now the city says they won’t accept anyone without a Grade 10.
“But they knew these drivers were unqualified, many with only Grade 3. These people are now without jobs.”
He added that drivers would not operate until they were addressed by Herron and Kidrogen’s management.
This morning Herron said he would only meet with drivers if they “stop and renounce their violent protest”.
“There are labour laws that govern employer-employee relations and these drivers failed to follow these procedures.
“Their strike is illegal and their violence, intimidation and attacks on the buses is criminal conduct.
“If they want dialogue, they need to stop this and follow proper processes and I will be happy to meet with them.”
The unprotected strike began on Wednesday as a wage demonstration at the Table View bus station. It was peaceful but disruptive to commuters trying to get home from school and work.
After wage negotiations with Kidrogen deadlocked once again, some drivers parked their buses across the dedicated MyCiTi lane, blocking peak-hour traffic.
More than 100 drivers joined the strike and 12 buses were abandoned.
Police rounded the drivers up and escorted them on foot along the MyCiTi lane to the Dunoon depot.
As he walked on Wednesday, bus driver Sibusiso Den said their working conditions were unacceptable and that all efforts at negotiating had failed.
“The management doesn’t care about us,” he said. “We get up at 3am, we work until 7pm and we only get paid for seven hours. We are the guys loading passengers on to the buses and we are only paid R5 000 a month.”
Den said the strike was a last resort but that it would remain peaceful, and the police response was unnecessary.
“The police must not chase us like this. We’ve done nothing wrong. We are unarmed, we would never burn anything, and we’re not going to do any damage.”
Den warned that there could be trouble in Dunoon because residents would join in the strike.
“It’s going to be worse there – the community will come and join us,” he said.
“We wanted to keep this away from the community.”
Sure enough, when the crowd of drivers arrived at Usasaza station, near the bus depot, some Dunoon residents threw stones and blocked roads with tyres.
Periodically buses came through but were blocked by the tyres. Some of the drivers moved the tyres and cleared the way.
A man who was not wearing a MyCiTi uniform threw the tyres back into the road, and soon they were set on fire. The bang of a stun grenade sent people running for the nearby shacks, some hit by rubber bullets or tear gas as they went.
“We need answers, otherwise we’re going to close down this depot,” said one driver who did not wish to be named.
“We know it’s illegal but we have to do something. The anger and frustration is growing.”
Kidrogen directed all media inquiries to the City of Cape Town but Transport MEC Herron said the dispute was between the drivers and Kidrogen.
“While the drivers’ grievances are a matter between the employer and its employees, the city is extremely concerned about the impact of the strike on commuters,” Herron added.