Wheels come off again for Durban’s bus service

15 March 2018 - 07:06
By Jeff Wicks And Yasantha Naidoo
Wheels come off again for Durban’s bus service. Image: STOCK
Wheels come off again for Durban’s bus service. Image: STOCK

The South African Municipal Workers Union has slammed the eThekwini municipality for not acting in the interests of residents after the city announced that the private operator running the municipal bus service had run out of diesel again.

The city issued a statement on Wednesday advising commuters of the disruption to the bus service and asking them to make alternative transport arrangements. They were not able to say when the service would resume.

The outsourced company Tansnat‚ which has a fleet of 450 buses‚ is headed by Jacob Zuma’s nephew Mandla Gcaba. The relationship between Gcaba and the eThekwini Municipality has at times been acrimonious and hallmarked by court challenges back and forth.

The bus service has been disrupted several times since 2015 as the operator had not received diesel from their supplier due to alleged financial issues.

The litigious battle began in 2015 when the city attempted to liquidate Tansnat‚ insisting the company owed over R53-million and that Gcaba had captured its bank accounts and were using them as his own.

Gcaba hit back‚ saying the city owed him money and had reneged on subsidy payments.

In 2016‚ the parties appeared to find a middle ground when they entered into a settlement agreement through which an "intervention team" was established to take control of the finances. An adjudicator was to be appointed‚ but it is unclear on whether this was ever followed through.

While there appears there is no immediate end to the halting of the service‚ Gcaba said issues were sorted out.

Gcaba told the publication: “Our diesel is fine‚ trust me. I have spoken to Shell and they have told me that we have diesel that is coming tonight [Wednesday]. I don’t know about that [an interruption of service]…I mean I know about it but I don’t know about that.

"I don’t know whether there was a hiccup at Bayhead [depot] but I have spoken to people at Shell and they have told me that our diesel‚ six orders‚ is coming tonight.” South African Municipal Workers Union KZN provincial secretary Jaycee Ncanana said the city was to blame for the inconvenience to commuters and municipal workers.

"The fact that this disruption has happened again is evident that the municipality‚ which has a budget of about R47-billion‚ is not capable of running properly. The fact that they blame the operator demonstrates that they are not acting in the interests of those whom they serve.

"There are implications for many people who depend on this bus service as well as their employees. The municipality needs to act."

The city’s bus service has been dogged by controversy for over a decade.

In 2003 the service was sold to Remant Alton Land Transport for R70-million‚ only to be bought back five years later for R405-million.

In 2009‎ Tansnat Durban CC‚ of which Gcaba is the sole member‚ was appointed to run the service. The municipality has on several occasions bailed out the company in order to maintain public transport services for thousands of its citizens.