Bus subsidy dispute rolls on

Legal arguments over the outstanding payment of R1,2-billion in bus subsidies will be heard on Friday, the Pretoria High Court has ruled.

While Friday has been set aside for argument to be heard, the parties will appear in court again on Thursday to notify the court if an agreement was reached overnight.

Legal counsel for the South African Bus Operators Association (Saboa), Paul Pretorius SC, said the dispute between the operators and the Department of Transport and Treasury could not be settled out of court on Wednesday and therefore arguments would need to be presented.

“The greatest dispute seems to be whether the payments have been made timeously and in full,” he told acting Judge Piet Ebersohn.

Outside court Saboa’s executive manager Eric Cornelius said an agreement was reached, after a full day of negotiations.

However, this was objected to by Treasury at the last minute.

“Just at the last minute before this was presented to court Treasury objected to some of the wording as they do not want to take liability for the fact that they have to make available additional funds.”

South African Transport Workers Union national sector coordinator Assaria Mataboge said the dispute had in fact been between Treasury and the Department of Transport.

“The sticking point is not on the side of operators today [Wednesday].

“The Treasury does not want to bind their own department with the conditions that are attached [in the settlement].”

Mataboge said the treasury had said it was prepared to help the department pay the subsidies. However, it did not want to be bound by the court as the problem had not been of its doing.

“They are saying that they are not liable for the shortfall. They don’t want to commit themselves to something that was not caused by them,” he said.—Sapa

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