Stranded commuters‚ long queues as bus strike bites

Bus commuters resort to using taxis due to the nationwide bus strike
Bus commuters resort to using taxis due to the nationwide bus strike
Image: THULANI MBELE

Commuters had to grit their teeth to navigate long‚ frustrating queues to board taxis‚ trains and share lifts as a national bus strike got under way on Wednesday.

Thousands of people were stranded or late getting to their destinations while some taxi owners said they were overwhelmed by the sheer number of passengers jostling for space on their vehicles.

Bus drivers represented by five unions are seeking a 12% salary increase among other demands‚ but wage negotiations have deadlocked with employers offering 7%.

The strike affected commuters across the country – from Johannesburg to George‚ Mpumalanga to Cape Town‚ Limpopo and Port Elizabeth. Apart from the inconvenience of getting to their destinations late‚ they faced the additional burden of having to find extra cash to pay for alternative transport. School children were also stranded.

Passengers queued at the Site C taxi rank as early as 5am in Cape Town. Taxi owner Patrick Piki said that operators were overwhelmed by the number of passengers needing transport.

Putco buses parked at a depot.
Putco buses parked at a depot.
Image: THULANI MBELE

"Bus owners did not inform us about the strike and we couldn't make provision for additional vehicles‚" said Piki.

"I got here at 5am and queues were already snaking. Most people will be late for work. They will probably get to work around 10 o'clock."

Commuter Sinethemba Tsewu‚ 51‚ complained about having to spend R50 daily between Khayelitsha and Claremont‚ where he works‚ in addition to the monthly bus ticket he had purchased.

"We are in trouble because we have to get to work‚" said Tsewu. "I have a monthly ticket for Golden Arrow. I will be late for work. There is a lot of uncertainty. I will have to borrow money from neighbours."

Commuters at Cleary Park in Port Elizabeth said they too had to find alternative means of transport.

As bus drivers across the country went on strike on Wednesday April 18 2018, commuters were left frustrated and running late. Drivers are demanding a 12% wage increase‚ while employers are offerin...

Bus services were also severely affected around Tshwane and there were reports of long-distance buses also not running in parts of the country.

Siyamthanda Ngqandu's tweet showed commuters at Bree taxi rank in Johannesburg.

Cape Town appeared to be hit particularly hard.

Bellville bus terminus in Cape Town is usually a hive of activity. But at 6am on Wednesday there was just an eerie silence. Most of a handful of people there were waiting for a lift to work. One man from Samora Machel said he had taken three taxis to get to the terminus.

"My boss made arrangements to pick me up here. I am scared‚ especially for this evening. I don't know what will happen during the day or how I will get home. I just wish government or companies give the bus drivers what they want‚" said the man‚ who works in Table View.

A commuter from Eerste River said: "I just need government to invest in the public transport system. It is expensive and not reliable. The bus drivers have the right to strike‚ I don't blame them."

Moreen Fielies from Atlantis waited over an hour to get a taxi to work in Table View.

"I was at the taxi rank by 6am this morning‚ only to get a taxi by 7:20am. There are still hundreds of people waiting for a taxi. I don't know why the bus drivers are doing this to us‚" she said.

Fielies said the taxi she took did not take the same route as her usual MyCiti bus‚ so she had to walk a further 5km to work.

Craig Alan from Nyanga was a first-time commuter to Table View who shared his thoughts: "I was told that traffic will be bad this morning. I got a taxi from Nyanga at 6:30am only to arrive an hour later. I am not looking forward to this afternoon. I think it will be worse."

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