The City of Cape Town has expressed extreme concern for the safety of commuters and the ongoing attacks on buses and other service providers. Many feel it is high time for the Ministers of Police and Transport to consider establishing a dedicated unit to investigate these crimes.
“The South African Police Service (SAPS) is responsible for crime prevention, to investigate crime, and to make arrests. Still, we have seen few, if any, successes insofar as this relates to the ongoing attacks on public transport service providers, infrastructure and assets, and the robbery of commuters,” said Mayco Member for Transport Felicity Purchase.
In November 2020, Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) reported to the Western Cape Legislature that more than 200 of their buses are attacked every month. Of these, six to eight robberies were committed weekly, either on GABS buses or at stations and stops where commuters are waiting to board buses.
Buses are often torched with petrol-bombs during protests, or stoned.
The City’s MyCiTi bus service and the Dial-a-Ride (DAR) service are also targeted during violent protests, and the City noted a disturbing trend of attempted hijackings of DAR vehicles that are transporting commuters with special needs, such as those in wheelchairs.
“Every attack leaves commuters and bus drivers and other personnel severely traumatised. Some are killed, some sustain injuries, and some lose hard-earned money and valuables. They commute in constant fear for their lives,” Purchase said. “We all have to agree that commuters have the right to safe and reliable public transport. The City is doing all it can with our limited resources and budget to ensure the safety and reliability of the services under our management.”
“I can confirm that we are negotiating with GABS about a dedicated unit to assist with the safety of commuters and bus drivers. The agreement will determine when this unit will be deployed, and how many Law Enforcement Officers will be assisting, subject to budgetary provisions and operational imperatives,” she added.
The City will inform the public accordingly, once an agreement has been concluded.
“I am calling on the Ministers of Police and Public Transport to consider establishing a dedicated unit within the SAPS to investigate crimes related to public transport – be it armed robberies, arson attacks, or the sabotage of infrastructure. Currently, the SAPS is failing dismally in its duty to bring these perpetrators to book,” Purchase said.
The Criminal Matters Amendment Act provides for stricter bail conditions and harsher sentences, including up to 30 years’ imprisonment, for those caught and convicted of destruction of essential infrastructure. It is intended as a deterrent against attacks on essential infrastructure, among which public transport infrastructure.
“However, we need the SAPS to apprehend the perpetrators and prepare high-quality dossiers that will assist in getting these criminals successfully prosecuted and convicted,” she added. “I am also calling on the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to realign his priorities and to start focusing on commuter safety. Urgent intervention is needed.”