Govt still pursuing Roadlink

2009-01-08 00:00

The face-off between the KZN Transport Department and long-distance bus operator SA Roadlink is set to continue despite the department recently withdrawing a moratorium on the operations of Roadlink in the province.

Transport MEC Bheki Cele yesterday told a media briefing that while the matter was withdrawn from court on the basis of a technicality, the department will continue to pursue it in the near future.

“We have laws [which allow the department] to pursue this matter without going to court to achieve the same and similar outcome [and] this is exactly what we are doing.

“Meticulous legal processes have commenced in pursuing this matter further,” said Cele, without divulging details citing the “sensitivity” of the matter.

He hinted that the department will seek to have Roadlink’s operating licence in the province revoked.

“In short, we have the laws of issuing and the laws of withdrawal [of operating permits]. We are not pursuing the moratorium, but are pursuing the laws of withdrawal [of the permits].”

The legal showdown between the operator and the department started in December last year shortly after 11 people were killed in an accident involving an SA Roadlink bus.

On December 18, two days after the accident, Cele announced that a moratorium had been placed on all SA Roadlink operations in KZN.

A letter was also sent to the company informing it of this decision.

The following day the bus company lodged an urgent application with the high court challenging Cele’s decision.

The department was due to file an answering affidavit in court on that day, but failed to meet the deadline.

The judge then ruled that the moratorium be suspended until yesterday when the arguments were to be heard on the matter.

However, following consultation with his legal team, Cele decided to withdraw the moratorium. The decision was also influenced by views expressed by the judge that there were certain procedures (under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act) that should have been followed before the moratorium could be imposed.

These included affording Roadlink an opportunity to make representations before imposing the moratorium.

Cele explained: “This withdrawal of the moratorium was done with a full reservation of the department’s rights and particularly the rights which are vested in me to pursue all legal channels … and to take whatever legal action against SA Roadlink for its past, present and future transgressions,” he told journalists.

Cele said yesterday that he did not regret his earlier decision adding that it was meant to save lives as Roadlink buses had been involved in many fatal accidents since December 2006.

The MEC added: “There has been an enormous public outcry on this matter and as government we cannot fold our arms whilst the safety of commuters is being compromised in the interest of companies making profit.”

Cele refuted allegations by the operator that his department has been unfairly targeting SA Roadlink buses in the province. “It is not true. Look at what is happening in other provinces where their buses are being impounded. Are they also being targeted there?”

An unapologetic Cele reiterated: “Actually they [SA Roadlink buses] are nothing but coffins on wheels.”

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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