Retrenched bus drivers claim R10?mln each

2013-02-07 00:00

THEIR faces showed exhaustion and frustration, but a group of about 100 former Durban Transport bus drivers who were retrenched when the company was privatised brought their case to the high court in Durban yesterday.

Michael Biyela, a representative of about 300 bus drivers claiming damages from the eThekwini Municipality, said some of the retrenched drivers had come from death’s door after being pushed into a “black hole” by senior municipal officials when they allowed the takeover of Durban Transport by Remant Alton Land Transport.

Biyela said the drivers were demanding that the municipality pay each of the 300 bus drivers at least R10 million in damages since some of them were retrenched at the time of the takeover in 2002 and others lost their jobs when Remant’s contract was terminated in 2009.

In an affidavit to the court, Biyela said all the applicants were once proud to work for the municipality, which they considered one of the best in the world.

“This bus privatisation scheme proposal was put to the applicants in glowing terms as if this was an incredible opportunity for the applicants to progress and uplift them into middle-class citizens,” said Biyela.

What had resulted was “nothing but despair”, with people losing their homes and cars.

He said before Remant took over, some people were earning R10 000 a month. Then their earnings dropped to R4 000. He added some drivers ended up divorced because of this.

“We fought against this privatisation, but we were told it is a done deal,” he said.

Some of the drivers claimed that the Manase report, which details allegations of fraud and corruption in the eThekwini Municipality, would reveal the truth behind their sacking.

They alleged that the city sold buses to Remant Alton for R70 million in 2003 and then bought them back for R405 million in 2008 when Remant was going bust. In 2009, many workers were jobless and left without severance pay, Biyela said.

Inkatha Freedom Party councillor Mduduzi Nkosi questioned why the drivers were not reinstated when the buses were bought back and why the municipality had still not paid workers their benefits.

“It is all about the Manase report and what has transpired here is massive corruption and it will prove that some contracts were awarded irregularly.”

Nkosi attacked the ANC for celebrating its centenary while some of the bus drivers and their families were starving.

According to court papers, an IFP investigation has found that the city engaged in unauthorised expenditure to the tune of R19,4 billion, as well as fraudulent and corrupt activities and theft involving 123 municipal officials and 10 councillors.

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