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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Intercape pleads for urgent intervention as attacks continue – 126 cases opened with police

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Cape Town – Long-distance bus company Intercape has appealed for urgent intervention as its coaches and staff face continual attacks.

The bus company appeared before the Western Cape standing committee on transport and public works and senior members of the provincial police management on Friday.

This comes after the latest attack in which two of its coaches came under fire near Nyanga on Wednesday.

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A driver was shot and seriously injured just days after another driver was shot at the company’s depot in Airport Industria.

In April, Bangikhaya Machana, 35, was gunned down outside the depot.

According to Intercape, it has experience incidents of stoning, intimidation, assault and attempted extortion since 2019.

Since the start of 2021, the company said it had experienced more than 150 incidents of intimidation, stoning, and shootings.

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“So far this year there have been 92 incidents of intimidation against Intercape, including threatening staff and forcing passengers off coaches at gunpoint or under threat of violence. One driver was assaulted and in May a taxi operator threatened to shoot the passengers.

“Incidents of intimidation have also occurred at Intercape offices and the depot in Airport Industria.

“Two of these incidents happened in the Eastern Cape, including one where a perpetrator attempted to torch five coaches at Mthatha Station. Security intervened to extinguish the fires.

“Since the start of the year, there have been 30 incidents of stone-throwing at Intercape coaches.

“The stone-throwing incidents have resulted in injuries to 10 staff and two passengers,” the bus company said.

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Intercape reported 19 shootings targeting its coaches in which four of its drivers were wounded and one killed. A passenger was shot in the leg.

The bus company said most of the incidents took place in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

It has since opened 126 cases with the police.

Of the cases, 61 were for intimidation directed at its coaches, 14 for intimidation at its offices or depot, 20 for shooting incidents and 31 for vehicle stonings.

Intercape said evidence including photographs and footage, which in some cases clearly identified the culprits and vehicles used in the attacks, had been handed over to the police but arrests were yet to be made.

It said it had initiated and attended meetings with stakeholders including bus operators and representatives from taxi associations, police, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints), Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and the Eastern Cape transport, safety and liaison MEC, but had been offered no sustainable or long-term solutions.

Intercape said it had also written letters directed to the Eastern Cape MEC, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Hawks, Natjoints, and Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula but to date had received no response.

The company said it remained committed to seeking a solution against the acts of violence and intimidation and proposed immediate steps to be implemented. It asked that:

Security cameras be installed on the bridge near its depot in Cape Town.

All incidents of violence and intimidation be investigated as crimes under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca).

Those responsible, based on evidence handed over, be arrested.

It also called for effective co-ordination between police and the government and support from the private sector.

“We are a private company operating legally with all the necessary permits, but we have been subjected to a concerted campaign of violence at the hands of rogue taxi associations who are intent on forcing coach operators out of certain regions and from key routes.

“They are doing this at the end of a barrel of a gun and authorities have done nothing to stop these attacks and prevent bloodshed. Instead, there have been attempts to intimidate and persuade us to be a party to agreements around pricing structures and routes which amounts to price-fixing. This is a serious criminal offence and Intercape refuses to participate in such acts,” Ferreira said.

The campaign waged against the long-distance coach industry began in 2017, with threats and isolated incidents of intimidation. In the past two years, the number and intensity of incidents have escalated dramatically to the point where attackers now use automatic weapons.

“Intercape faces an incident of violence or intimidation nearly every other day.

“Today it is the long-distance coach and construction industries. Who will it be tomorrow?”

“We are pleading with the private sector and all right-minded South Africans to stand up and make their voices heard against this blatant extortion and thuggery,” Ferreira said. – IOL

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