/ 3 October 2008

Durban city buses torched

At least 19 buses belonging to Durban’s troubled municipal bus service were set alight in the early hours of Friday morning, police said.

Constable Siwe Nxumalo said the buses, operated under licence by Remant Alton — whose drivers are on an illegal strike — were set alight at the company’s Ntuzuma depot shortly after 4am.

”A security guard on duty told police he heard a bang, and when he checked he saw the buses on fire,” she said. The buses were completely gutted.

”No arrests have been made. We don’t know who could have done this,” she said.

Remant Alton bus drivers embarked on illegal protest action two weeks ago, leading to the dismissal of nearly 1 000 employees earlier this week.

The workers were demanding that they be employed by the eThekwini Municipality as they claimed Remant Alton had financial mismanagement problems.

Nxumalo said police could not confirm whether the arson attack was linked to the ongoing strike.

Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said initial investigations revealed that the buses were petrol-bombed by ”a number of suspects”.

Police believed damage to the buses was estimated at R35-million.

Remant Alton human resources manager Jabulani Mngadi was not immediately available for comment.

The eThekwini Transport Authority’s (ETA) deputy head, Eric Muller, said on Friday afternoon that the attack would be discussed when ETA met with the Remant Alton management later on Friday.

Democratic Alliance (DA) Durban caucus leader John Steenhuizen said: ”Whilst recognising that there are heightened frustrations around the Remant Alton debacle, it must be recorded that resorting to acts of violence will not address the problems which are currently being faced.”

”The DA sincerely hopes that in this period of transition of ownership of these buses, the buses were still properly insured and that the ratepayers of the city will not have to pick up the tab for the unlawful acts of others,” he said.

The eThekwini municipality privatised its bus fleet, selling it to Remant Alton for R70-million in 2003. Many of the striking Remant Alton employees are demanding that they be re-employed by the municipality. — Sapa