Golden Arrow pleads for government help in combating arson spate
DAILY MAVERICK / 23 NOVEMBER 2020 - 11.22 / SUNE PAYNE
There have been 13 arson attacks on Golden Arrow buses in Cape Town this year, says the bus service company. The bus operator asked for more assistance from Western Cape parliamentarians to combat criminal activity in Cape Town.
“It was a sad day when we have to talk about attacks on buses,” said Francois Meyer, CEO of Golden Arrow Bus Services. On Monday 23 November, the public transport operator appeared before the Western Cape provincial parliament at the request of the Standing Committee on Transport and Public Works.
A bus that was burnt during service delivery protests on the Cape Flats. (Photo: Gallo Images / Ashley Vlotman)
The committee called the meeting in the aftermath of a protest on 12 November, when three buses were burnt in arson attacks in Khayelitsha during a service delivery protest. GroundUp reported land occupiers had protested along the N2, calling for the City of Cape Town’s attention to municipal services such as water, electricity and sanitation services.
Meyer told the committee there had been 13 arson attacks on buses this year, with 200 buses being stoned monthly. In addition, the company recorded eight armed robberies per week.
Meyer questioned why Golden Arrow would get “attacked by the same community” if it had high scores on the black economic empowerment scale, as well as giving back to the community through social projects.
Meyer said it felt like the “government ignores that we have to operate these buses in war-like conditions”, specifically referring to the suburb of Khayelitsha, where Golden Arrow has more than 200 buses travelling in the area during peak hours.
Meyer addressed the November protests saying: “The perpetrators of these crimes do not have anything specifically against Golden Arrow … they admit in the media that they burn Golden Arrow buses to get noticed.”
Meyer said the effects of the criminal acts include a R30-million cost to the bus operators, injuries to employees and passengers, post-traumatic stress and staff absenteeism. Other effects included disruptions to commuters, including matriculants who need to write exams.
When asked about law enforcement support by committee members, Meyer said “there should be a continuous police force”, for all forms of public transport in Cape Town.
Buses are equipped with CCTV cameras and rewards are offered for information related to successful convictions for arson attacks and robberies, said Meyer. The bus operator also regularly communicates with the city council’s law enforcement and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
When asked by committee members if there was a possibility that the taxi industry might be responsible for the arson, Meyer said there was “no evidence” of this, but that there are reports of intimidation. During the lockdown, there had been instances of robberies, but Meyer said this could be attributed to desperate people who are forced to try to “steal a bus driver’s phone or a passenger’s”.
But advocate Kyle Reinecke, a deputy director in the Western Cape provincial Department of Transport and Public Works, said “most of the solutions lie with national [government]”. Reinecke said the department could lobby the national government to deal with the issues of criminal activity and extortion.
“The solutions lie with national structures, with SAPS with the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] ..[it] doesn’t lie within our competency to do,” said Reinecke.
At the end of the meeting, committee members suggested calling another meeting with police as well as the provincial legislature’s Committee on Community Safety. Chairperson of the committee, Daylin Mitchell, said resolutions would be circulated among the committee members, following a discussion with the committee secretary.
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