Pretoria - The announcement by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula that the North West Bus Company would no longer operate in Hammanskraal was met with jubilation and happiness by commuters.
Mbalula addressed a public meeting at Nelson Mandela Hall in Hammanskraal on Saturday regarding concerns raised by the commuters. These related to the poor service rendered by the bus operator.
He told the packed hall that the contract with the company would not be renewed when it expired in April 2020, and that there would be 200 additional buses within four days.
He said they were looking at more or less 200 buses that would be rolled out by tomorrow.
“The solution for commuters is to fix the bus service, among other things, and in the long term open a tender to allow people who want to bring a good service to do so.”
The statement was music to commuters’ ears. However, Hammanskraal Interim Transport Task Team spokesperson Simon Sephokgole warned that should the promise not be kept, they would disrupt the economy.
“I am not going to hide it. If the minister does not deliver the services, we know we have the economy of South Africa, which is (the) N1 and R101; even the goods that are passing there, we are going to shut them down and stop it,” he said, to the backing of the crowd.
Commuters meanwhile said the bus operator expected them to contribute towards toll fares and diesel.
“We buy tickets, how can the company expect us to contribute R5 each for tollgates and diesel, daily?” asked a commuter.
Others said the buses often broke down, which meant they were late for work. Overcrowding was another problem.
The commuters had already called for the termination of the contract between Starline bus operator North-West Transport Investments and the Gauteng government. Early this year, they marched to the Department of Transport in the CBD with the demand.
Some commuters, Sephokgole said, had received written warnings for arriving late at work because of the unreliable buses. Students had had to repeat modules due to arriving late for exams, he added.
The buses also posed a health hazard to some commuters.
“Some commuters get sick due to dust because the bus floors are damaged.”
In addition to the 200 buses, Mbalula promised to conduct a forensic audit of the bus service and appoint a new board.