Concern for safety of Cape Town’s bus commuters intensifies

Public transport services in Cape Town are plagued by crime, vandalism and violent protests. It is not a new phenomenon, but it is intensifying. 

“We are now looking at an average of seven robberies per week. Previously two a week would be a high figure,” said Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, spokesperson of Golden Arrow Bus Service. Some target only the driver and others target the driver and passengers.”

Last year the bus service reported that more than 200 buses were attacked each month. These attacks exclude those where buses were badly damaged or destroyed when they were petrol-bombed and stoned during violent protests.

In a report to the Western Cape legislature, Golden Arrow said that six to eight robberies were committed weekly, either on buses or at stations and bus stops.

“We operate under very difficult circumstances much of the time, but our passengers rely on us and we don’t avoid any areas unless we have to make a minor route diversion,” said Dyke-Beyer.

The City of Cape Town’s public transport services MyCiTi and Dial-a-Ride have also been targeted by criminals. The city’s mayoral committee member for transport, Felicity Purchase, said these services “are also targeted during violent protests, and we have seen a disturbing trend of attempted hijackings of our DAR vehicles that are transporting commuters with special needs, such as those in wheelchairs”.

“Every attack leaves commuters and bus drivers and other personnel severely traumatised. Some are killed, some sustain injuries and some loose hard-earned money and valuables,” said Purchase. 

The City of Cape Town has publically called on Police Minister Bheki Cele and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to consider establishing a dedicated policing unit to investigate public transportation crimes.
Purchase confirmed that their department also sent letters to the two ministers. 

“The South African Police Service is responsible for crime prevention, investigating crime and making arrests,” Purchase argued. “Still, we have seen few, if any, successes insofar as this relates to the ongoing attacks on public transport service providers, infrastructure and assets, and the robbery of commuters.” 

Negotiations between the City of Cape Town and Golden Arrow are underway to establish their own unit “to assist with the safety of commuters and bus drivers”. It is yet to be confirmed how many law enforcement officers will assist the unit and when the unit will become operational.   

“The city will inform the public accordingly, once an agreement has been concluded,” said Purchase.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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