Gauride drivers need training

THE minibus goes into reverse on a busy road in Pretoria - after 30 minutes of driving in circles around the city.

THE minibus goes into reverse on a busy road in Pretoria - after 30 minutes of driving in circles around the city.

"I don't know where to drop you off," admits Teboho, the driver of a vehicle hired to give fans free rides to Confederations Cup matches in Gauteng.

Sitting next to the driver, a local fan named Tom activates the GPS service on his cellphone. Behind him Leslie unfolds a map of the area around Pretoria's stadium, which was given to passengers before leaving Johannesburg.

In the last row, a young fan tries to keep spirits up by blowing on his vuvuzela. At an intersection with several police standing watch, the driver tries to get directions.

"My sister," Teboho pleads, trying to get the attention of a policewoman, stuck between the cars of arriving supporters.

"Baby, where do we park?" he asks with more success. "No idea," she replies.

"By the time we arrive, the match will be over!" says Tom. "It's a mess," complains Marcial, Leslie's travelling companion.

Teboho gets back on the road, following other lost minibuses that are used to driving only in Johannesburg but are now part of the "Gauride" network - a free transport system meant to ferry fans to the Cup games.

The passengers finally pressure Teboho into creating his own bus stop in front of a police station, within sight of the stadium lights.

The passengers take Teboho's cellphone number, so they can call him after the game, and begin walking towards the stadium. Fifteen minutes into the game, they finally get to their seats. The return trip from Pretoria was just as chaotic.

The Gauride "is a good idea, but the drivers need better training. They dropped us wherever they felt like, and didn't even know where the stadium was. How would foreigners manage?" asked Leslie, a 24-year-old bank clerk.

Drivers received three days of training, where they learned how to get from the park-and-ride drop-off to the stadium lots. But several drivers told AFP they had never actually driven the route during their training.

Sipho Mbele, Gauteng's head of transport for 2010, acknowledges that the system - which has carried 22000 people so far this week - needs improvement.

"Gauride agents will be posted not far from the stadiums to give directions to drivers," he said.