The decision to ban SA Roadlink buses from the roads was justified in order to save lives, KwaZulu-Natal transport minister Bheki Cele said on Friday.
In an interview, Cele pulled no punches in his criticism of the national bus operator, which has a history of accidents in the province, with several of its buses being declared unroadworthy by provincial authorities over the past two years.
”They are just troublesome and everything about them stinks. Their owners’ attitudes stink, their buses stink and their [compliance with] labour laws stink,” he said.
Cele has withdrawn the company’s operating permit pending the outcome of an investigation into Tuesday morning’s crash, involving an SA Roadlink bus and two other vehicles, which claimed the lives of 11 people.
On Christmas Eve in 2006, an SA Roadlink bus crashed into the pillar of a bridge, resulting in the deaths of 12 people.
Drivers working for the operator, Cele said, had complained of working under poor conditions and newspapers had reported that drivers were told to ”double-up” on the roads.
Cele is expected to meet the operator’s owner on Friday afternoon to discuss the matter, but was adamant that he stood by his decision and that he would not be persuaded otherwise.
A press briefing would then be held in Burger Street, Pietermaritzburg, at 2.30pm.
In the latest incident, Cele said, on Thursday afternoon another SA Roadlink bus got into trouble on the road.
The bus had left Durban and was headed to Johannesburg when it got stuck near Inchanga.
”It had an oil leak.”
On the Tuesday of the fatal crash, yet another Roadlink bus had got stuck in the Umkomaas area.
”It was stuck for nearly 15 hours and policemen had to go and buy food for the passengers until they could be taken home by another bus.”
He said he was tired of the bus company and its unroadworthy buses. He had given a deadline to SA Roadlink buses across the province’s border to return to KwaZulu-Natal.
”They have until midnight to cross over into KZN. Any bus found after midnight will be impounded.”
He urged commuters to rather pay a little more money and take a safer bus rather than one with a history of ”trouble”.
”For SA Roadlink, it’s business as usual and for me it’s my legal obligation to take them off our roads because safety is the first priority.
”A while back when the company was in the spotlight … the owners promised us they would move heaven and earth to make sure their buses were safe and they did not do that.”
Earlier this week, the company’s chairperson, Allen Reddy, said Roadlink buses were certified roadworthy by government testing centres in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Cele denied this, saying: ”Then they must have inspected their own buses.” — Sapa