Pregnant, disabled passengers are trouble - Intercape bus driver tells disabled passenger

2016-03-29 10:42


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Pretoria - A wheelchair-bound man was left humiliated as he travelled on board an Intercape bus after he was allegedly singled out for his disability and labelled as 'trouble'. 

In a letter sent to both Intercape and media houses,  Edwin Sipho Rihlamvu went through the details of his unpleasant ride on the bus carrier.

Intercape has since apologised and promised to investigate.

"... The driver had an issue with the fact I was travelling alone owing to my disability and was insistent that I do not travel in his mainliner unless in the company of an escort," Rihlamvu said. 

He and his friend who had accompanied him to the bus station were surprised by this as they had clearly indicated when they bought the ticket that he had a disability and they were assured that his needs would be catered for. 

"When my friend whom I was visiting and who was accompanying me to that mainliner pointed out the fact that I am capable of travelling alone, the driver said that he does not want people with disabilities and pregnant women in his mainliner as they were 'trouble'. He was unable to expatiate what he meant by the “trouble” utterance," said Rihlamvu. 

The bus driver allegedly made Rihlamvu wait as he assisted other passengers. He claimed he needed to first call his superiors to get advice on whether to take him on board or not. 

Rihlamvu got the sense that as a person with a disability he would be assisted last. 

"After all the passengers were on board, the driver did not make any call but simply said that I should find a seat nearer to the toilet in the mainliner," said Rihlamvu. 

"...When I boarded, the first thing he said to me was that there is 'no drinking or smoking allowed in the mainliner'. This despite the fact I was not drinking nor smoking. It is noteworthy to mention that I was the only one afforded the courtesy of such an alert: other passengers were not that lucky," he said.

But that was not the end of his ordeal. 

When the bus stopped in Bloemfontein, with the assistance of other passengers, Rihlamvu claimed to have disembarked so he too could get some air. 

He was placed on the pavement outside the bus where the bus driver could see him. 

"[The bus driver] however decided to move the mainliner about 300 meters away from me, leaving me stranded in the pavement. Fortunately, fellow passengers who observed this incident carried me the distance back to the mainliner," said Rihlamvu. 

"It was vividly clear that the driver was determined to make my trip as unpleasant as possible."

Rihlamvu said it was only in South Africa where he encountered trouble for travelling with his disability, adding that the taxi industry also did not cater for the disabled. 

He questioned whether the Intercape's bus drivers were offered any training on how to deal with disabled travelers. 

In a response to questions from News24, the company said it did offer training to its drivers and the drivers regularly went on refresher courses. 

".... We would like to offer our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that Mr Sipho Rihlamvu may have suffered. We do our utmost to deliver good services to all our passengers," Intercape said in a statement.

It intended to investigate the matter. 

"Our buses are equipped to accommodate disabled people and the conduct complaint of is very disappointing to us.  We are currently investigating the matter and the drivers in question will undergo the necessary questioning and steps will be taken against them should they have misconducted themselves," Intercape said. 

Meanwhile, Rihlamvuu said he had made his horrible experience public because he wanted to ensure it never happened to anyone else who is also living with a disability. 

"Over and above my trip being unpleasant, I felt humiliated by the experience, rattled by the fact that I was singled out to be the recipient of such psychologically hones ill-treatment and had my dignity denegratively compromised," he said.

"I may not be the first person to have been meted with such treatment (others might have accepted the status quo and buried their head in the sand), but hope to be the last," Rihlamvu said. 

Read more on:    pretoria

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