/ 30 June 2009

Task team to tackle Durban’s bus problems

The African National Congress (ANC) in KwaZulu-Natal has described the suspension of Durban’s bus service as unacceptable, and has called on the government and the city to urgently sort it out.

”The ANC believes it is unacceptable that buses be stopped as thousands of people will be deprived of their daily transport, which will cause disturbances to the education of our children and potentially cripple the economy,” said ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala.

Durban’s beleaguered bus operator, Remant Alton, informed the city two weeks ago it would cease operations from June 30 due to financial problems.

Operations, however, stopped on Monday morning because angry bus drivers parked buses in various streets in Durban causing traffic chaos.

Thousands of people were without transport on Tuesday morning.

Addressing the media in Durban on Tuesday, Zikalala said the ANC supported KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize’s decision to appoint a task team to address the matter.

Zikalala said the team consisted of provincial minister of finance Ina Cronje, provincial minister of education Senzo Mchunu, provinical minister of economic development and tourism Mike Mabuyakhulu and provincial minister of transport Bheki Cele.

”We want the task team to come up with short-term and long-term solutions. We also want it to examine where the city went wrong,” said Zikalala.

The municipality privatised the municipal fleet in 2003 because the National Land Transport Transition Act stipulated that municipalities with transport authorities, such as eThekwini, should not themselves run buses.

Since 2003, the bus company had been accused of failing to provide efficient public transport and the city had bailed it out financially several times.

In 2008, eThekwini spent R405-million buying back buses and equipment from the underperforming operator. This was in terms of an agreement where Remant Alton would continue operating the service but the council would own the fleet.

The operator had since told the city it cannot continue operating because of financial problems.

Zikalala said the ANC believed public transport should fall under government jurisdiction.

”The ANC provincial committee has also noted that the policies with regard to the public ownership of buses will have to be re-looked at.” — Sapa