Pupils still in bakkies

2015-02-04 00:00

A DAY after the Imbali crash in which seven Fezokuhle primary school pupils died, it was business as usual for bakkie drivers who ferry children to and from the school.

This despite road traffic legislation prohibiting the conveyance of persons, children or adults, in the section of a goods vehicle intended for reward.

But bakkie drivers at the school yesterday said they were unaware that it was illegal to transport children in the back of their vehicles and they would continue doing so.

Lucas Mahlaba, who has been driving a bakkie for over three years, said he started the business because school pupils had to walk more than five kilometres to school.

“I agree that pupils are being overloaded into the bakkies every day but we make sure that we drive carefully and slowly because their parents have trusted us with their children,” he said.

Mahlaba described Lungile Mthimkhulu, who was driving the vehicle on the day of the tragedy, as a good driver. “She’s been driving that route for many years,” he said.

A bakkie driver who asked not to named told The Witness that on Friday the school principal, Bhekane Nkwanyane, called a meeting to discuss the issue of transportation and safety of pupils in the area but the meeting ended without a resolution.

“We asked the principal, what alternative does he have if vans are told not to transport pupils anymore,” said Mahlaba.

Nkwanyane said he had met with the bakkie drivers last week. “In our meeting, bakkie drivers were keen to apply safety measures when transporting pupils, but we hope the government intervenes with the learner transport programme. That is a safer option for them,” he said.

Another bakkie driver, Mzwakhe Ndabezitha, insisted their vehicles were a safe option for children.

“There is crime in the community. Parents rely on us and we make sure that their children are safe,” he said.

Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the department’s learner transport programme only assisted pupils who walk six kilometres or more to school.

• siso.naile@witness.co.za

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