Intercape attack: Western Cape government vows to improve long-haul bus safety after latest incident

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The Western Cape government vowed to put measures in place to protect commuters on long-haul buses this festive season.
The Western Cape government vowed to put measures in place to protect commuters on long-haul buses this festive season.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart
  • The Western Cape government says it will take action to protect long-haul bus commuters this festive season.
  • This follows an attack on an Intercape bus over the weekend.
  • Traffic officers and police are expected to monitor all national routes.

The Western Cape government has vowed to put measures in place to protect commuters on long-haul buses this festive season.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Mobility MEC Daylin Mitchell visited bus operator Intercape's Cape Town depot on Tuesday. The visit followed an attack on an Intercape bus over the weekend.

At the meeting, the long-haul coach company's management detailed how extortion rings targeting long-distance buses in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape were becoming increasingly brazen.

Winde said these attacks were part of a broader organised criminal pattern in which criminals were trying to intimidate and force legally operating companies to cut their services.

READ | Intercape bus driver wounded in yet another shooting, drives himself to safety

"With tens of thousands of people travelling between our province and the Eastern Cape over the coming weeks, the various law enforcement agencies need to bolster their presence on the roads, not just to ensure responsible driver behaviour, but now they also need to break the back of these extortion rings and their masterminds, some of whom are known to authorities, we are told.

"Yet there has been little to no action taken. People deserve safe, reliable and dignified public transport, which the national government is not able to provide," Winde said.

There have been more than 150 recorded violent incidents, including shootings, stonings and acts of intimidation directed at Intercape and other long-distance operators, allegedly by rogue taxi associations looking to control routes. The Eastern Cape was the epicentre of this campaign of violence, News24 previously reported.

Last month, Intercape announced that it had taken legal action over a safety plan that was supposed to be developed to protect buses travelling in the Eastern Cape. The legal action followed a court order for Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Eastern Cape Transport and Community Safety MEC Xolile Nqatha to work with the police to develop a plan of action to secure the safety of Intercape coaches.

While Nqatha filed an action plan at the end of October, Mbalula gave notice of his intention to apply for leave to appeal the court order.

Intercape criticised the plan for failing to address the reopening of areas in which Intercape had not been able to operate, such as Cofimvaba, Butterworth, Engcobo, Tsomo and Dutywa.

"This growing trend of extortion must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. We call for an inter-governmental intervention," said Mitchell.

The Western Cape government is already working with the police and co-chairs the Provincial Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure's Transport Priority Committee to coordinate planning, regulation and enforcement.

An "extortion standard operating procedure" was also planned to combat these crimes, said Mitchell.

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Provincial traffic officers and the police's Flying Squad would continue to monitor all national routes for rapid response in the event of attacks on buses, added Mitchell.

"As the minister responsible for the regulation of transport in the province, I will not allow a criminal few to hold the entire transport system to ransom. Legal operators have a right to operate long-distance trips and not to be harassed and intimidated by criminals.

"It is not within my mandate to investigate these crimes, but we have adopted a coordinated approach to support law enforcement in whichever way possible to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to book," he added.

He said the Transport Priority Committee met with Intercape attorneys last week to coordinate how best to stop attacks on buses.

Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira said the company was "calling on law enforcement agencies to take urgent action to arrest and prosecute the criminals responsible for the attacks".

The company declined to comment further.

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