Pretoria – Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has condemned the attacks on property and disruption of transport services following the burning of Putco buses on Thursday night.
According to reports, three Putco buses were set alight and a bus driver injured at Dobsonville in Soweto during a commuter protest over the company’s decision to increase bus fares.
“No matter how serious an issue may be perceived to be, there cannot be any justification for damage to property and injury or loss of life, major damage and disruptions were caused to bus and train services costing millions of rands on Thursday alone,” the minister said.
Two coaches were also destroyed at Heathfield station in Cape Town when they were set alight and Metrorail train service was also severely disrupted in Johannesburg on Thursday morning, as a result of the burning of 46 electricity cables, situated under the Simons Street Bridge, crucial to the electrification and safe running of trains in and around Johannesburg.
Ndebele said government is currently investing billions of rands to ensure safe, efficient, reliable and affordable public transport, noting that the cost of replacing and restoring equipment and services amounts to millions of rands, and could be better spent on improving current transport services.
“Moreover these acts not only affect the quality and efficiency of transport services and inconvenience commuters, but also put innocent people’s lives at risk,” Ndebele said.
He called upon the South African Police to leave no stone unturned in their investigations and to ensure that those responsible for these criminal acts are speedily brought to book and further called upon members of the public who may have any information on these acts to immediately report it to the Police.
He noted that while government remains committed to ensuring that the concerns of commuters and operators are addressed, violence and intimidation as a means of highlighting grievances is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, especially at a time when government is engaged in constructive discussions with transport stakeholders.
“While we are seeking lasting solutions, the right of citizens to efficient, reliable, safe and affordable public transport will remain paramount, we wish to assure commuters that the Department of Transport is doing everything possible to ensure that transport services operate as normal in all areas.
“Consolidated multi-billion rand improvements by government to transport infrastructure over the next two years are guaranteed to radically change the way South Africans travel. Amounting to R66-billion over the next year, and rising to R80-billion by 2013/14, the improvements are set to also create numerous job and tourism opportunities, with both urban and rural areas benefiting,” Ndebele said.
Metrorail has urged the public to report any acts of crime or vandalism on (011) 774-8566/7/8 or toll free 0800 12 70 70. – BuaNews