'Business as usual' for SA Roadlink
Johannesburg - Controversial bus operator SA Roadlink has been ordered to vacate Park Station by the South Gauteng High Court after it failed to pay rent, a spokesperson for a subsidiary of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) said on Thursday.
"It defaulted with rental for parking lanes and ticketing offices and had an overdue account," Intersite spokesperson Kenny Ramuthivheli told Sapa.
Intersite is the property management subsidiary of Prasa that looks after train stations and surrounding property in South Africa.
"At court [on Wednesday], an order was granted for the payment of outstanding amounts and the eviction of Roadlink from the premises," said Ramuthivheli.
SA Roadlink, however, said Intersite had reneged on a verbal agreement to settle the matter.
The bus operator had since "tendered full payment with immediate effect", SA Roadlink said on Thursday night.
The eviction order only applied to one of the three properties occupied by SA Roadlink at Park Station, and would not affect SA Roadlink's daily operations at Park Station, the company said.
SA Roadlink said the failure to pay rent was caused by a technical glitch by Prasa.
"SA Roadlink currently has seven lease agreements at different locations with Prasa which are paid through a debit order system of Prasa.
"It was only recently brought to SA Roadlink's attention that of seven debit orders that were running, only five had been debited on a regular basis.
"SA Roadlink was advised that due to a technical glitch in Prasa's system, two debit orders were not processed for the last two to three years," the statement read.
The Sowetan reported that the court gave Roadlink 14 days to vacate the premises and ordered it to pay the amount owing, as well as a further R24 863 a month, backdated to June this year.
It also had to pay 12.5% interest on the money owed. Court papers stated that Roadlink owed R562 431 to the rail agency.
Prasa and the owners of the station on Wednesday filed an urgent application against SA Shorthauls, the company that owned the bus fleet, and its owner Thagraj Reddy.
SA Roadlink said this court application went against a verbal agreement it had with Prasa to resolve the matter.
"Despite numerous requests from SA Roadlink in respect of an updated reconciliation, Prasa handed the documentation over, giving SA Roadlink insufficient time to go through Prasa's reconciliation.
"However, SA Roadlink agreed that the outstanding monies will be paid on or before 7 November 2010, once the documents were reconciled.
"The matter was not defended by SA Roadlink, solely on the basis that SA Roadlink and Prasa had come to a settlement.
"Thereafter, SA Roadlink's chief operating officer, Joe Mushwana and Intersite's legal manager had come to an agreement that they will go to court and let the matter stand down till 7 November 2010, once SA Roadlink had rectified the account.
"To SA Roadlink's disbelief, Intersite retracted from the verbal agreement on the date of the court case."
The troubled operator has come under the spotlight numerous times after accidents involving its buses claimed lives, and unroadworthy buses were pulled off the roads.
Former KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Bheki Cele, presently national police commissioner, at one point labelled the Roadlink fleet "coffins on wheels".