commuters left in lurch
Thousands of commuters and schoolchildren will be left stranded today after the eThekwini Municipality shut down its public bus system on Friday.
The municipality unilaterally ended its contract with the embattled bus company Remnant Alton, which has been plagued by strikes and has not been able to keep its full fleet on the road.
"There will be a complete cessation of services for two to three months to enable the buses to be brought up to standard," Mayor Obed Mlaba said.
Mlaba said Remant Alton had declared itself technically insolvent and in breach of the contract. The municipality had wanted to retain the buses, but an illegal six-week strike late last year had derailed the plan.
"Problems with the interim maintenance of the buses have led to a huge number of buses being off the road. In recent weeks only 150 to 160 buses have been available and many scheduled trips have been cancelled," he said
He urged commuters to use trains and taxis in the meantime.
Cosatu yesterday blamed the municipality for the "state of crisis and paralysis". It called on transport MEC Bheki Cele to intervene.
"We urge the MEC to intervene and ensure that those who are on the wrong are brought to book," said Cosatu's Zet Luzipho.
"We are opposed to the privatisation of municipal services. The public transport crisis is a vindication of what we warned before.
"Our people deserve better and cannot be made victims of a wrong choice, in particular of such an inefficient company [as Remnant Alton]."
The bus service has deteriorated since the consortium took over in 2003 in a black empowerment deal.
Drivers complaining about poor working conditions, wages and benefits went on strike shortly after Remnant Alton took over. Now the staff face an uncertain future.
Commuters have also been complaining about the poor condition of buses.
Last week hundreds of commuters gathered at the city hall carrying placards calling for the municipality to take over the buses. They complained that too few buses serviced their routes, leaving thousands stranded.