Taxi Violence & Ongoing attacks on long distance bus services: INTERCAPE Bus Service briefing


23 August 2022
Chairperson: Ms T Mahambehlala (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Intercape Bus Service (Intercape) briefed the Portfolio Committee on Tourism on its perspectives regarding incidents of violence in the long-distance transport sector. The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) sent through a briefing, but was unable to attend the meeting.

Intercape outlined the nature of the attacks on its buses, the interactions with the taxi associations, and its interactions with the authorities. These include intimidation, extortion, stoning, and shooting at Intercape buses in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Gauteng. At the moment, Intercape is not operating in certain towns in the Eastern Cape because of these attacks.

Intercape said it was deeply disappointed at receiving no response after writing to the President of South Africa, the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Police. It asked for the matter to be taken up as a matter of national importance.

The Portfolio Committee committed to following up on the matter with the Portfolio Committee on Transport and the Portfolio Committee on Police, as well as other stakeholders, as it poses a serious threat to international and domestic tourism.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed Members of the Committee, the Department of Tourism, Intercape Bus Service (Intercape), and the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO). The purpose of the meeting was to understand what has happened in the sector, and to deliberate on possible interventions the Committee could make, as informed by the presentations.

Mr Jerry Boltina, Secretary of the Committee, said SANTACO sent an apology and asked the Committee to respond with three possible slots which SANTACO could choose a suitable date from, to meet with the Committee.

The Chairperson said the Committee could not guarantee any other slots as the schedule is tight, but the request will be looked into.

Intercape briefing

Mr Johann Ferreira, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Intercape, gave a presentation on the attacks against Intercape long-distance buses, under the following topics:

Summary of attacks
Incidents against all big bus companies began in 2019. These incidents include intimidation, stoning, assault, blocking stops, and attempted extortion. Letters to the Public Protector and Minister of Transport have been written, but there has been no response. There have been more than 150 incidents since the start of 2021. In 2022, Intercape faces an incident of violence or intimidation nearly every other day, including 31 stoning incidents and 21 shooting incidents. Attacks are becoming more violent, sophisticated, and organised. Intercape was even asked to pay a protection fee of R100 000.

Mr Ferreira said there are possible leaks in the South African Police Services (SAPS) as the 4 June, 5 June, and 26 June attacks occurred when SAPS was not available for escort.

Summary of interactions with taxi representatives
There have been sporadic meetings with taxi representatives since 2020. The requests from the taxis are an increase in prices, limitation on departure times, no price fluctuations based on demand and no more operations out of certain towns. These towns are Dutywa, Butterworth, Ngcobo, Cofimvaba, Gcuwa and Nqamakwe.

Summary of interactions with authorities
Interactions over numerous incidents have been taking place with authorities since 2016. The meetings since April 2022 include meetings with the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS), the Western Cape Provincial Operational Command Centre (WC POCC), the Western Cape SAPS, Western Cape Department of Transport, the Premier of the Western Cape, the Western Cape Standing Committee on Transport, and the bilateral meeting between SAPS Western and Eastern Cape authorities.

Mr Ferreira said he received a telephone call from the Eastern Cape Member of Executive Council (MEC) for Transport, Safety, and Liaison on 27 May 2022, where she asked Intercape not to stop in certain towns, as she had a meeting with taxis after a blockade in Idutywa. She asked Mr Ferreira to attend a meeting with the taxi representatives, aimed at reaching an agreement on Intercape operations, routes, and fares.

He wrote letters to authorities and received no response. This included the MECs of Transport in both the Western and Eastern Cape, the National Minister of Transport, the President of South Africa, and the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).

Outcome of engagements with authorities
The police decided to escort the coaches in the Eastern Cape. The outcome of engagements with the Eastern Cape MEC for Transport is that Intercape can now only operate out of Mthatha. Four arrests have been made out of the Western Cape Standing Committee engagement. Most of the incidents occurred in the Eastern Cape, where no arrests have been made, despite pictures clearly identifying culprits captured by the onboard cameras.

Current legal proceedings
Application against MEC and Minister of Transport seeking an order:
The MEC and the Minister have an obligation to take positive steps to put in place measures to ensure the safety of long-distance bus drivers and passengers in the Eastern Cape
The MEC and the Minister have an obligation to co-operate and coordinate efforts with the SAPS
The MECs actions to suspend and require Intercape to enter into negotiations on, inter alia, price with the taxi operators were unlawful
The MEC and the Minister must, in consultation with the SAPS, develop a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of long-distance bus drivers and passengers in the Eastern Cape

The way forward
Without national intervention, those who perpetrate these acts will profit from the results. Bonke (CATA) already attempted to start a bus service, servicing towns Intercape did not. Intercape reported to the authorities that he does not have the requisite licence and the bus was impounded. The following day an Intercape driver was shot and two more buses were shot three days later. There was a direct link between the attacks and the taxi associations. It shows the need for an effective coordinated government crackdown. There have been attacks in Gauteng as well.

Mr Ferreira said this was a clear case of taxi operators targeting long-distance buses and systematically driving buses out of areas. He was deeply disappointed the letters he sent to the President, Minister of Transport, and Minister of Police were unanswered. He asked the Portfolio Committee to take the matter to the National Assembly, as it is a matter of national importance. He was deeply concerned about the lack of action from government and specifically the Eastern Cape. The ministers cannot say Cabinet is not aware of the issue. He also wrote extensively to the Department of Transport about the Minister's failure to implement the Land Transportation Act. He believes the act not being implemented has contributed to the situation.

He said he did not have to tell the Committee what would happen if a coach of international tourists got shot at and people died or got hurt. The broad daylight shooting incident in Cape Town happened 500m from the airport. He asked how the South African government could explain this to the international community. He demanded the Committee and other committees bring the two Ministers to the National Assembly to answer these issues. It is high time government comes up with solutions. If Intercape should not be in business then it must be told. If Intercape has the right regarding permits and good standing, as a taxpayer and law-abiding citizen, then it must be protected to render services. Talking to another Committee, radio station, or newspaper would not save lives. It is only the action of the President, the two Ministers, and the police who can put an end to the extortion, racketeering, collusion, and intimidation.

Ms M Gomba (ANC) said the presentation was disturbing as it shows a threat to tourism in the Western Cape, and to the lives of the people who are passengers. Tourism is not only about international travel but also about province-to-province travel, and interprovincial tourism is very important. She said the anarchist criminal actions by the association fighting Intercape are killing the tourism growth in South Africa. She called upon the Minister for Community Safety and Transport to interact with the Western Cape Local Government, saying it must work together in dealing with the taxi associations, which are aligned with the local government and municipalities in the City of Cape Town. The national department may want to intervene, but without the assistance of the Western Cape Local Government, it would not work out. Arrests must take place and anarchy and criminality threatening tourism must not be left to continue. This must be stopped with immediate effect.

Ms S Xego (ANC) appreciated that the two transport authorities were invited to the Committee. As per the presentation, the Eastern Cape is highly affected as most incidents happened in the Eastern Cape. She wanted to bring the many deaths in the Eastern Cape, which happened as a result of these attacks, to the attention of the Committee. Also, the drivers and people killed come from the Eastern Cape. She asked if the company belonged to any of the associations. She understood from the presentation the company pulled out of the association, and asked Mr Ferreira if he could disclose more of the reasons for pulling out, so the Committee could do its own assignment.

She once witnessed an incident in Idutywa where there was a standstill on the N2 because of a community protest. It affected the N2 and the town, both were at a standstill. All the stakeholders in the town met in the presence of the MEC for Transport. She asked if Intercape was present at the meeting, and, if yes, what the resolutions were, because all the stakeholders were there, including the taxi associations which operate in the area. She asked, if not, what plans Intercape had, because this problem was affecting everyone in the Eastern Cape. The tourism industry wants transport for commuters which is safe, on time, reliable, and also low cost, meaning at affordable prices. As a Committee, the mandate is to promote domestic tourism. 

Associations/companies which can offer affordable prices are encouraged to do so. She asked if government subsidises Intercape. Transport is a business, and businesses have competition and monopoly. In Mthatha, there are fewer or no incidents, and she asked what is being done right around Mthatha which is not being done on the route which passes Butterworth, Idutywa, Queenstown, and the other areas.

The company must contact the Premier of the Eastern Cape so the Head of Government in the Eastern Cape can intervene, as it was mentioned in the presentation that it had not gotten help from the MEC. SAPS has a safety mandate and transport is the mandate of the Department of Transport, but society must not be left out because safety is also a societal matter. Other stakeholders are also important in the matter. Although the President may not reply directly, she said she does not think nothing is being done. The President may contact the Head of Transport and other people who are mandated to take care of the safety of communities and the buses. She said the company must not isolate itself. If the reasons for pulling out of the association are not threatening, the company ought to rethink its position and rejoin the associations. Intercape is free to take the advice or not take it. It is good to work within an association because the Committee is interested in issues which cut across the board. SANTACO was invited to the meeting because it is the umbrella body for taxi associations. The Committee will continue contact with other relevant and responsible departments, as it normally does when something affects tourism. What has been presented is a crisis in the transport industry. It has highly affected the people of the Eastern Cape and there are risks; people are dying. Motorists and tourists are affected during the protests because sometimes there is a shutdown and no movement takes place, so the mandate of the Committee is affected.

Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) said every life is important, including the lives of South Africans and international tourists. While navigating this issue and trying to find solutions, all lives must be made of importance and no more lives must be lost. The situation as it stands needs to be arrested. Tourism relies on many other sectors for it to be able to flourish and be functional. Tourism relies on road infrastructure and transport to transport tourists to various destinations between visits, be it international or domestic tourists. The Committee was concerned about the violent attacks in the transportation sector and the reason the meeting had been convened was to listen to the stakeholders within the transportation sector regarding the problems and challenges.

It was important to engage with the Eastern Cape and Western Cape portfolio committees to try and get synergy, instead of working in silos while trying to assist the stakeholders. Intercape is frustrated because it was not receiving any assistance. As the Committee is entering the space as a custodian of tourism, it is trying to assist with arresting the situation, given the complexity of the challenges which involve the Department of Transport, and safety and security. She encouraged Mr Ferriera not to pull out of the engagements and associations. The Committee will want to find Intercape organised when engaging the stakeholders. This is not the end of the engagement. The Committee is proposing, according to its programme, a colloquium with the transport sector, the safety, security and police sector, and tourism stakeholders in the near future to deliberate on these challenges, and the pandemic. Where the lives of ordinary citizens are put at risk, it is violent and should be classified as a pandemic which must be arrested. All efforts must be put together to ensure no further lives are lost.

Ms H Winkler (DA) said the situation was highly chilling. Although this falls under the purview of the Department of Transport, she believed it has cross-cutting implications, especially the impact it could have on tourism, as was noted, if some international tourists were caught in crossfire. It could have a lasting impact on the country's tourism brand while violent crime incidents already plague it. There really was a need for engagements with necessary stakeholders, and a need to facilitate a discussion with the Portfolio Committee on Transport, Police, Corporative Governance, and Traditional Affairs to engage with the provincial counterparts in provinces where the issue has escalated. It was a pity the SANTACO representative was not on the platform.
The issue had become more prevalent and more of a crisis. She said in her constituency, transport operators recently approached her about the fighting over routes. She thinks the pandemic has made people very desperate to make a living and people are now looking at any avenue to do so, which is causing a lot of friction in communities. She said the stakeholders must find a lasting and amicable solution which looks at diplomacy, and which involves sitting down and talking about the issue before things escalate to even more violent incidents than what was already happening. She fully advocated for interdepartmental engagement across the spheres of government to convene some sort of forum as soon as possible, aimed at arresting the incidents which are transpiring.

Ms S Maneli (ANC) said the pandemic was man-made as a human element was involved. It would have been more fruitful if SANTACO had been present, as, at some point, SANTACO had to be engaged. The Committee needed to have a bruised feeling on matters which affect tourism, especially concerning the transport sector. She was also so dismayed at the violence experienced by innocent citizens who were only desperate for transportation. Most people who are affected rely on transport for whatever reasons. People commute daily and this cannot be downplayed; these commuters need to be protected and need to feel safe as commuters, but are being exposed to violence which has nothing to do with them. The Committee needed to engage the portfolio committees of the two provinces, especially the Eastern Cape, because the matters are more prevalent in the Eastern Cape.

These are crosscutting matters which need engagement. The sooner The Committee engaged with other stakeholders, the better, and there will probably be a lasting solution to these matters. She asked if Mr Ferreira believed the attacks against Intercape were exacerbated by pulling out of the association; and asked if there was now a specific target against the Intercape line of buses.

Mr H Gumbi (DA) said this was a difficult issue because the role of the Portfolio Committee was to protect and promote tourism. It significantly affected domestic tourism, and a large part of it was criminal conduct. Businesses have the right to operate, as long as the businesses are operating within the bounds of the law. Businesses must be able to do so freely and enjoy protection from the State and the government. He asked how the Portfolio Committee could intervene and what could be done immediately. This was indeed an emergency situation and the Committee needs to put pressure on Transport, Police, and Intelligence to make this a top priority. The Committee must officially write to those portfolio committees to say the Committee had received a presentation which is concerning for tourism; however, many matters fall within the realm of these committees, which they have to deal with. This step would assist in making the situation a greater priority. The Committee must also write to the departmental ministers, and the President. When the role players in an emergency situation are writing and not getting responses, the Committee must take the matter forward.

What was also concerning was at the moment, many people from working class families were dependent on transport, and there was so much violence, with people's lives being lost. It does not get taken seriously, only to be taken seriously when a bus of tourists gets shot at and tourists die. It cannot be that some lives are valued more than others, and this will be the result. It was suggested the Committee take the two steps noted earlier to begin to help the process forward immediately, and then carry on with the other steps for a long-term solution. It is important for some kind of action to be taken now.

Mr H April (ANC) said the presentation was shocking, disheartening, displeasing, and seeing some of the images was absolutely disgusting. He was also an Intercape client who sometimes travels with his family on the bus, and he takes the matter seriously as he could have easily been on one of the buses which was shot at. It must not be forgotten there is a monopoly, and bullying happens in the sector. Inequality is one of the factors. Systems must be implemented to ensure this kind of bullying from the taxi operators and the monopoly run by the bus operators does not happen. It must be looked into to make the playing field equal in this regard.

It did not sit well with him when Mr Ferreira mentioned demand, collusion, and corruption. These are strong words when mentioned in the Portfolio Committee and go unaddressed. When corruption and collusion are mentioned, it is a matter of concern and must be taken up with the police. He asked Mr Ferreira to lay charges so investigations could go on. When there is corruption and any illegal exchange of money, it is not necessarily a matter for the Committee, but a police matter which can be investigated by the Hawks and so on. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) should think about opening cases so he can have references and corrupt elements in the system can be dealt with.

Response from Mr Ferreira
Mr Ferreira said he welcomed and appreciated all the comments and suggestions. He said everything which was said could be backed up with an affidavit, which has already been filed with the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS). It was also filed in the Western Cape and was in the record of the bilateral meeting between the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, which has all the evidence and his affidavit. It has been reported to the authorities. Regarding the associations, there is no long-distance bus association. It had been tried to form one to be a united front against the bus attacks. At some point, he decided to no longer continue with the membership of Intercape. The reason being, Intercape decided to negotiate with the taxis, not to agree on price, not to agree to the demands, and not to effectively hand over the keys of the company to the taxi associations where it would be running the company. The other bus operators who were also affected decided to talk with the taxis. He pleaded with these operators on more than one occasion to go to the police to make a case, and explain how bus operators are being extorted but the operators chose not to. Mr Ferreira has decided to file an affidavit and report this to the various law enforcement agencies. It is now up to these national and local law enforcement agencies to act upon the 150 cases of violent acts, murder, and extortion.

Regarding the meeting of the taxis in Idutywa, this incident occurred on 27 May. The taxi associations protested against the presence of the bus companies and blocked the N2 for the whole day; then, the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Transport had a meeting with the taxi associations. He said after the meeting, he received a phone call and was told Intercape should not be operating out of Cofimvaba, Idutywa, Butterworth, Ngcobo, and Tsomo. Intercape has existed for 36 years and permits were first granted in 1986. Intercape has one permit to operate between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Intercape is a private company. Greyhound and Translux, which belonged to government, were granted networks to operate in the whole country. Greyhound changed ownership various times and was then liquidated after the pandemic. Autopax has been run into the ground after inheriting over 500 coaches after the 2010 Soccer World Cup, and some coaches are still running. Currently, Translux is operating one or two coaches out of Cape Town.

The problem is there is a thing about bus companies and monopolies. Intercape is a private company and has never received any subsidies from the State. It competes with government buses highly subsidised through Autopax, Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), and Transnet. If an entrepreneur in South Africa has built a business for over 36 years and runs an effective service within the parameters of the permits without breaking the laws of the country, then there is no reason for the company not to be made a dominant operator. It is a matter to consider if a company lawfully conducts its business, outperforms public companies and highly subsidised companies, and succeeds against Covid-19, only to be terrorised by an industry which effectively has nothing to do with bus operations.

A taxi was never designed to do long-distance trips, so many people are being killed by taxis, whereas international standard coaches are designed to be the best and safest coaches. The coach costs about R7 million. Intercape is law-abiding, pays taxes, breaks no laws and has been operating for 36 years. It is not a company which will participate in collusion, racketeering, extortion, and paying bribes. It is a company based on godly principles and only wants to proclaim God's word and build God's kingdom on Earth. He asked the Department of Transport to tell Intercape how it has conducted business wrongly over the past 36 years. All the coaches have permits, all the drivers have public driving permits and licences, and all the coaches are licenced and paid. Intercape must be protected and allowed to conduct its business as any other business is protected by SAPS. He has extensively reminded the police regarding Section 204 and SAPS's responsibility to protect the people of South Africa.

Follow up comments
Ms Xego said she forgot to raise the point regarding the bus company and leadership in the Department of Transport and Safety in the Eastern Cape. The way the two departments are structured may be good for the crisis. Intercape must be ready to update the MEC about the crisis being experienced. She has seen on social media commuters like the services of Intercape, but are afraid of the risk associated with it now. She supported the Committee meeting with its counterparts to get closer to the crisis. She said this is also an intelligence matter.

Closing remarks
The Chairperson thanked Mr Ferreira for presenting this matter to the Portfolio Committee. Many were not aware of it. She said the Portfolio Committee would take the matter up. Members raised the reality of cutting across the responsibilities of the Committee. A meeting between the portfolio committees of Transport and Police would be initiated so deliberations on the matter could take place. It was hoped next time Intercape was invited to the committees, it would avail itself.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) would also be invited so whatever decisions will be taken can move in unison and be implemented collectively. The safety of the South African people is very important when it wants to visit other provinces by bus. It is important because flights have become very expensive and the demand for buses has returned. The Committee takes this responsibility upon itself because what was presented will reflect badly if the international community wants to visit the country. The Committee will also take responsibility to say what measures it will follow in mitigation, particularly regarding what happened in the Eastern Cape. In this meeting, there must also be a progress report on the incidents and the number plates of cars which have clearly committed crimes. It is clear these were acts of criminality so the law must take its course. She did not want to say it was a pity SANTACO was not present, but she now understood why SANTACO decided to pull out of the platform at the last minute. Unfortunately, it was also an opportune time to present its challenges. Perhaps SANTACO anticipated Intercape would raise many issues and allegations against its members. The Committee noted all Mr Ferreira shared with the Committee. It is a process and is intense as far as the work and schedules of the Portfolio Committee go, but she ensures the Committee will meet with the other portfolio committees and bring Mr Ferreira to present to those committees as well.

Ms Xego is privileged to be from Eastern Cape and more clued up on the incidents Mr Ferreira raised. The information she has will be shared with the other portfolio committees in the meeting.

She thanked Mr Ferreira for the presentation and said although disturbing, it was good nothing was edited so the magnitude of what happened, not only to Intercape, but also to society at large would be understood.

She hoped Petra van Niekerk, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, from the Office of the Director-General, had noted what was presented and would report back to the Director-General of Tourism on what the Portfolio Committee will be doing to follow up on the matter.

It would be remiss if she did not respond to the comment about the President doing nothing. The President has appointed ministers and the Minister should be liaising with the stakeholders daily, especially when there is a crisis of this magnitude. Both the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Police should liaise with Intercape as a company, and report back to the President because it would be difficult for the President to respond to these matters.

Some people are meant to be a conveyor belt between the President and society. The first point of reference was the ministers. The Portfolio Committee would intervene to ensure answers because Intercape said there had been no response from the two ministers, and this matter has a negative impact on tourism. It is about to be the time of the year when tourists will be visiting the country and some will need0 the services of Intercape.

The meeting was adjourned.

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