South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) is calling on Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula and law enforcement authorities to act decisively against taxi operators implicated in attacks on Autopax buses, after a driver was shot and scores of passengers injured.
Yesterday at about 8pm, a City to City driver was shot at four times in the back by gunmen in a car driving alongside the bus on the R56 between Ixopo and Richmont. He lost control of the bus and it rolled 16metres down a valley and landed at the bottom. The driver, along with 21 injured passengers, was taken to hospital. The bus had been ferrying 32 passengers, some of them children, the youngest of which was eight months old. Thankfully, the children were not hurt.
The bus had been travelling from Mthatha to Johannesburg via KwaZulu-Natal.
Autopax is state-owned and operates City to City as well as Translux buses. This is not the first time its buses have come under attack. On 8 September, two drivers, in two separate Translux buses were shot at in Ixopo while transporting 56 passengers each. One driver died immediately. The bus he was driving came to a halt when it hit a barrier. The second driver was taken to hospital in a critical condition. Workers at the parastatal embarked on a work stoppage and called for Minister Mbalula to address them.
Two weeks later on 22 September, gunmen in seven cars arrived at Kokstad station in KZN and assaulted a driver and a saleswoman before forcing more than 330 passengers out of the buses they had alighted. Again, workers embarked on a wildcat strike citing safety concerns. In a misguided effort to force them back to work, Autopax approached the Labour Court for an urgent interdict. SATAWU opposed the application and the judge agreed with us saying, “I refuse to send workers to the slaughter house.”
A meeting between Autopax management, unions, Prasa Board Chair Khanyisile Kweyama and GCEO Dr Nkosinathi Sishi resolved to arrange an urgent meeting with the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) and to formulate a committee comprising management, unions, transport department and other stakeholders to address the issue.
Minister Mbalula also responded to workers’ call to address them, he also convened a meeting of stakeholders including taxi owners operating in the vicinity of the attacks. In discussions during the meeting, the taxi operators did not deny they were responsible for the violence but instead told Mbalula they were not aware Autopax was state-owned.
It is against this background that we call on Minister Mbalula and the police to take decisive action against the perpetrators of these horrendous attacks against innocent people. It is clear they do not care about the community they service but are only after profit and will stop at nothing to get it. They have no respect for life.