Buses torched amid strike chaos

2008-10-03 00:00

Nineteen Durban buses were petrol bombed at the Ntuzuma bus depot yesterday amid labour ructions between Remant Bus Services and its drivers.

Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said the buses were set alight just after 2 am. A security guard on duty at the depot heard a loud bang and rushed to the scene. The buses were already burning when he got to them.

Mdunge said police are investigating a case of arson and that a large group was involved.

The damage was estimated at R35 million. No one was injured.

eThekwini’s north region divisional fire commander Bruce de Gier said firemen from the Ntuzuma, Phoenix, Umhlanga and Durban North branches attended to the blaze. Two fire engines and three tankers were used to extinguish the fire.

He said that initially only six buses caught alight, but the flames spread to the other buses as they were parked very close together.

“It was difficult containing the blaze,” he said. “Normally we would have moved the buses away from the blaze, but most of the buses had flat batteries. There was nothing we could do.”

This incident comes after Remant Alton bus drivers embarked on a two week strike, which later led to the dismissal of almost 1 000 employees.

Disgruntled employees were demanding to be employed by the eThekwini Municipality.

Commuters who use the bus service were forced to use taxis and trains during the strike.

They have been assured by Remant Alton that their bus coupons will still be valid when the bus service resumes.

Democratic Alliance Durban caucus leader John Steenhuizen condemned the arson attack.

“The DA sincerely hopes that in this period of transition of ownership of these buses, the buses were still properly insured and that the ratepayers of the city will not have to pick up the tab for the unlawful acts of others,” he said.

Steenhuizen said gearboxes and other mechanical parts and fittings were allegedly removed from some buses and that several buses were being moved to safer locations in order to protect them.

• The eThekwini Municipality has already started cleaning up the waste that has littered the city after municipal cleaners went on strike a week ago.

Overflowing bins and refuse bags were strewn across the city after Durban Solid Waste workers refused to work for agents and demanded that they too be employed by the municipality.

Management met with several agencies to discuss the strike action and what can be done to resolve the matter. Remant Alton management were in a meeting and could not be reached for comment.

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