THERE was chaos and uncertainty at Moloto Road's main bus rank yesterday morning when commuters - protesting against alleged bad service - stopped Putco buses from travelling to Pretoria.
The protest, which took place east of Pretoria, started just after 6am when commuters pulled numerous passengers from out of buses and demanded that Putco management address their grievances.
Commuter representative Elias Masombuka told Sowetan that more than 80 Putco buses were taken off the road last month by traffic officials "for being unfit for the road and this in turn caused a serious shortage of buses".
Masombuka said angry commuters refused to be overloaded and packed into the few remaining buses "like sardines".
He said it was decided that Putco buses should be boycotted and stopped from moving anywhere.
"Arriving late at work on your first day after the December holidays is not a good way to start the year, but this is better than risking your life," said one commuter.
"An overloaded bus is hell because it means standing in the bus for a 50km journey. When you arrive at work you are already tired."
Police spokesperson Johannes Jaftha said a high police presence was sent in yesterday to avoid what happened in August 2008 when about 5000 commuters torched 21 Putco buses on Moloto Road near Cullinan.
"The buses started ferrying commuters around 10am after Putco representatives addressed the commuters and there was no violence this time around."
Putco spokesperson Raphiri Matsaneng denied any of the company's buses were taken off the road in December.
Matsaneng said the protest began when passengers became worried that they might not be able to get to work because of the large number of people that were at the rank.
Matsaneng added that the shortage was attended to immediately and those commuters who were not able to use their tickets yesterday would be able to use them today.