Rea Vaya bus violence harshly condemned

2010-03-16 14:31

THE first day of the new, extended Rea Vaya bus service was a

success, despite violence and vandalism, the City of Joburg said

yesterday.

By late afternoon the Johannesburg Metro police spokesperson

Inspector Edna Mamonyane said no further disruptions had been reported. “We’re

not aware of any further incidents. But we’ll continue to monitor the

situation.”

The city said both the new feeder routes transporting passengers

from the suburbs to Rea Vaya stations, as well as the main routes connecting

Soweto with central Johannesburg had worked well, with all buses full.

Problems in Soweto, where railway tracks were blocked, bus stops

vandalised and commuters intimidated, had been sorted out by midday. At least 19

people were arrested and would be charged with public violence.

The city’s mayoral committee member for transport, Rehana Moosajee,

said the Rea Vaya system showed it could handle an increased volume of

passengers.

“We experienced some initial first-day challenges but, in the

broader context, the success of the service demonstrated the need that existed

for a rapid bus service to move passengers safely and effectively across our

city,” Moosajee said in a statement.

She praised commuters for staying patient and calm, despite long

queues at the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations and threats of violence.

Gauteng’s Transport and Roads MEC Bheki Nkosi condemned the

criminal behaviour during yesterday morning’s protests.

“The threat to life and acts of civil disobedience which

accompanied the taxi industry protest action are regrettable, noting the

engagement processes that have taken place and continue to take place between

the government (City of Joburg) and the taxi industry on this issue,” the MEC

said in a statement.

Nkosi hoped a speedy solution would be found to the differences

between the taxi industry and the city. Law enforcers would “remain on full

alert”.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also condemned

the violence.

“Cosatu condemns unreservedly the shooting of commuters, blocking

of roads, and burning and stoning of buses,” spokesperson Patrick Craven said in

a statement.

The service introduced yesterday included a main route between

Dobsonville, in Soweto, the Johannesburg city centre and Ellis Park Station, as

well as feeder services from Naledi to Thokoza Park Station, from Jabavu to Lake

View Station and from Mofolo to Boomtown Station.

The next phase will be introduced on May 3. From that date all

service times will be extended and services on Sundays introduced on all

routes.

The feeder and complementary buses will make over 179 stops along

the routes.

Moosajee said the city would remain open to talks with

organisations within the taxi industry not yet part of the BRT process.

Early yesterday the United Democratic Front leader Bantu Holomisa

said taxi drivers could be forgiven for thinking that President Jacob Zuma had

strung them along to keep the peace ahead of last year’s elections.

Last year, just before the national election which saw Zuma become

president, he met taxi operators to discuss their grievances with Rea Vaya

buses. At the time he was sympathetic to the taxi operators’ plight and called

for the introduction of the BRT to be temporarily halted.

Some operators, like those associated with the United Taxi

Association Forum, claimed the government was taking over routes they saw as

their “intellectual property”.

The large buses with the concertina-like centre form part of the

Soccer World Cup transport plans between the city and Soweto.

By December last year the Johannesburg council and the city’s taxi

industry said 167 operators had agreed to take their vehicles off the road in

return for compensation of over R3?million from the city. However, there had

been a number of shootings linked to the introduction of the new system, the

most recent on Friday night in Klipriver Valley Road when a bus was raked with

gunfire, but nobody was injured.


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