Protest escalates

Commuters stranded while law enforcement officers guard the Interstate Bus Lines fleet at the Botshabelo rank adjacent to the Rea Hola Shopping Centre. Photo: Supplied
Commuters stranded while law enforcement officers guard the Interstate Bus Lines fleet at the Botshabelo rank adjacent to the Rea Hola Shopping Centre. Photo: Supplied

The police in Botshabelo arrested two residents for public violence on Monday (29/01) at the height of violent protests which have caused panic among hundreds of commuters using Interstate Bus Lines (IBL).

According to Sgt Martin Xuma, police spokesperson, the two culprits will soon appear in the Botshabelo Magistrate’s Court on charges of public violence.

Angry taxi owners in Botshabelo embarked on protest actions to express their dissatisfaction over the alleged lack of consultation by the government’s plans of implementing the Bus Rapid Transport system in the greater Mangaung Metro Municipality.

Sporadic looting of the shops of foreigners at the Rea Hola Shopping Centre was reported.

This is where commuters interchange their mode of transport between IBL busses and taxis in Botshabelo.

However, other than the two men who were arrested for causing public violence, Xuma says no further complaints of assault and looting of the foreign shops were reported.

The arrests follow the vandalising and stoning of a few IBL busses on Monday.

The protest escalated to such an extent that affecting commuters using taxis and busses. S scores of commuters using the services of the IBL to get to work in Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu were left stranded.Services of the IBL were also affected to some extend due to the unrest which resulted in several workers not going to work in Bloemfontein, Botshabelo.

Thando Lepele, IBL spokesperson, says a number of the company buses were stoned and their windows and exteriors were damaged.

“However, no reports of injuries to commuters were received. The bus service operated mainly outside the affected shopping centre in Botshabelo,” says Lepele.

She says the company will investigate and consolidate reports on the costs of damage to the buses.

Unruly protesters barricaded the bus rank at the shopping centre with stones and burning tyres.

The violent protest, reportedly initiated by dissatisfied members of the Botshabelo Taxi Association, began last week.

Commuters say they feel unsafe and have been fearing for their lives since the outbreak of the protest by unhappy Botsabelo taxi members.

“There is no guarantee that the police will guard the buses whenever we go to work,” one commuter said.

Since the government’s proposal of the plan in 2009, this transport system has also sparked violent protests in other parts of the country, such as Soweto, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

  • At time of going to print, Express was still unsuccessful in obtaining a comment from the Botshabelo Taxi Association.
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