File picture: Independent Media.
File picture: Independent Media.

Sparks fly over plans to create new bus service entity in Durban

By Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Sep 6, 2020

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Durban - The Tansnat Durban bus company has opposed the eThekwini municipality’s plans to establish a new entity that will take over the operation of the city’s lucrative bus services.

The municipality recently approved a road-map report for the establishment of the entity to improve the bus services in the city.

However, it noted in the report that the process was severely delayed by court processes brought by Tansnat.

This week commuters were left stranded yet again after Tansnat bus drivers embarked on a strike demanding better salaries and benefits.

Drivers who claimed to have received death threats from Tansnat bosses when they asked for a salary increment, left buses on major highways blocking traffic during Monday’s peak hours.

Tansnat, which is owned by Mandla Gcaba – the nephew of former president Jacob Zuma - has been running the city buses for over a decade.

The company is still locked in a court battle over the multimillion-rand debt the municipality made against it.

Tansnat argued that it was the municipality that owed them.

Vickesh Maharaj, Tansnat’s chief operations officer said the municipal entity, “on any basis” was not due to be established for many years.

“The municipality’s feasibility projections reveals that operating the bus service through the entity will be far more expensive than the present situation. It would be even more expensive than either option.

“Tansnat has opposed the expression of interest for the formation of an operating management company and opposes the establishment of a municipal entity as it does not believe that this is in the public interest,” he said.

Maharaj said the R300 million debt was a result of short payments made by the municipality over several years.

He said there were various disputes between the city and Tansnat.

“We are hopeful that the adjudication process will be finalised in the hearing set down on October 5.

“It is this process that will determine whether it is the municipality that owes Tansnat money or vice versa.

In the road-map report, the entity would be a trial phase to improve bus services and eradicate the glitches that appeared during Tansnat’s operation.

However, even if the city moves to establish the new entity, Tansnat was likely to form part of it.

The city said it would allocate up to 40% shareholding of a new entity to a private individual or business, especially existing public transport operators in the city.

It stated that in the extent that shareholding is given to a private individual, priority would have to be given to designated groups, like black people, youth, military veterans among them.

The report cited Tansnat as “only” African operator – all others were operated by people of Indian descent.

In that case, Tansnat stands as a front runner to be given up to 49% in the new entity.

Opposition parties expressed different views on the item as the DA voted against inclusion of Tansnat in the new entity, while the IFP supported the request.

In response mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said it was an assumption by the opposition party that the city would reinstate the current bus operator.

“According to the National Land Transport Act, the city must outsource 40% of the new entity to private businesses to receive funding from the Treasury.

“But that does not mean we will give it to Tansnat.

“The tender was advertised and anybody can apply to be part of the entity,” said Kaunda.

Sunday Tribune

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