state told to pay up

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

The Department of Transport has until noon today to pay R300million it owes the South African Bus Operators Association in subsidy arrears.

The Pretoria high court yesterday ordered the department to pay up R300million to Gauteng bus operators as subsidy for November last year alone.

But this is only a fraction of what is owed to them. The department owes operators across the country R1,2billion.

Jane Barrett, policy research officer for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, said: "We welcome the court ruling but we still have a long way to go.

"The money will at least keep the wheels rolling and wages paid for the next week in Gauteng. This is a temporary solution, and therefore Satawu will keep up the pressure for full payment. This will be done through marches in all provinces by next week Friday."

But Collen Msibi, spokesman for the national Department of Transport, said: "We will study the decision and solicit advice from our lawyers."

Saboa and its union representative, Satawu, took the department to court after it failed to meet its contractual obligations to subsidise bus operators across the country.

Initially, the government had agreed to subsidise bus operators for R4,1 billion a year. But in November the government said it was unable to pay subsidies for the last four months of the financial year (December 2008 to March 2009) owing to a subsidy shortfall of R1,2billion.

This prompted Saboa to take legal action. Saboa managing director Eric Cornelius said the government had been given until noon today to settle the R300million debt. "The case will continue next Wednesday when we will know if the debt will be settled in full," Cornelius said.

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