GO!Durban buses were expected to start operating next month. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - EThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) has apparently awarded the GO!Durban bus contract to Tansnat Durban CC, the company in charge of the city’s troubled bus service.

The Sunday Tribune understands that under the new agreement, Tansnat and three other bus companies will work with 15 taxi associations to operate the new bus system.

So far, taxpayers have forked out R3 billion for the system which included easy-to-access buses, plush seats, new bus ranks and special lanes.

The Go!Durban buses were expected to start operating next month. To date, the project had been delayed as a result of disagreements between the municipality and taxi owners over compensation for their business that would be taken over by the new buses.

The Sunday Tribune was reliably informed that the decision to integrate existing bus operators and taxi owners was to “neutralise” the threat by the taxi owners that they would stop the project if their demands were not met.

“A decision was taken to form a new company that will involve some of the affected taxi owners and existing bus companies so the city can get a buy-in from them.

“Tansnat as one of the transformed bus companies in Durban has provided its services to the city for over 10 years and was chosen as one of the stakeholders in the new company,” said a city official, who asked not to be named.

GO!Durban bus stations getting final touch ahead of the official opening in September. Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency (ANA)

Thami Manyathi, head of ETA, confirmed this week that a new business entity, Vehicle Operating Company (VOC), had been formed to work with existing bus operator and the taxi bosses. Manyathi would not reveal the names of the bus companies.

“In accordance with the National Land Transport Act, the company that will operate the service on C3 (Pinetown to KwaMashu), the VOC, will be made up of existing operators (bus and minibus taxis) that are affected by the introduction of the new service.”

He said negotiations of the service contract were still to be concluded between the city and the VOC.

Tansnat is owned by Mandla Gcaba - the nephew of former president Jacob Zuma - and has been operating eThekwini buses for more than a decade on a month-to-month contract.

The city and Tansnat were at odds over the R370million Gcaba owed the city. In an attempt to recover the debt, eThekwini made a liquidation application but the company went to court to challenge the matter.

Taxi owners had previously vowed to stop the project until all their issues were resolved. Asked about compensation, Manyathi said the affected taxi owners would be compensated based on agreed processes.

Picture: Bongani Mbatha / African News Agency (ANA)

“Compensation depends on which choice they made. They either particapate in the VOC or exist in the industry for which they will be compensated, or, compete with the new system and receive no compensation. It is, unfortunately, not possible to compensate the business for potential losses during construction,” he said.

Manyathi added that preparations were at an advanced stage and the city was optimistic that the project would get off the ground next month.

Mathula Mkhize, chairperson of the SA National Taxi Council for Durban West, said it was monitoring the negotiations closely and its priorities were compensation.

He said members knew about the VOC but it had not been unpacked; they did not understand how it would work and benefit those who lost businesses as a result of the new project.

“We are not violent people and we believe in negotiations. However, if the council decided to bypass us and opt to do things on their own, we will surprise them. We have made it clear we want the issue of the compensation to be finalised before the project begins,” he said.

Sunday Tribune