Intercape sues Police Minister Cele for failure to act on reign of terror Intercape is calling for the government to intervene as its coaches and staff continue to face attacks allegedly by the taxi industry File picture

Intercape is suing Minister of Police Bheki Cele for the complete and utter failure of the police to stop the spate of attacks against the long-distance operator.

Intercape has continued to run the gauntlet of attacks in recent weeks, with at least 14 recorded incidents in the Eastern Cape as coaches travel through the heartland of the province.

Coaches have been shot at and stoned, while drivers and passengers have been intimidated by taxi operators in towns across the province in what Intercape alleges amounts to “a campaign of organised crime” that is “part of a pattern of racketeering activity”. At least three people have been shot and wounded and two severely assaulted since the beginning of March.

Intercape says under the failed leadership of Minister Cele, and President Cyril Ramaphosa who appointed him, parts of South Africa have been turned into a mafia state where taxi operators rule with impunity.

“The fish rots from the head and we have a police service which has done absolutely nothing to uphold public safety and ensure the arrest of perpetrators,” Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira said.

“We hold Minister Cele responsible for every failure of the police under his watch and we will not stop until there is full accountability to the travelling public in South Africa.”

Read | Intercape bus driver shot on the N2 in Cape Town

Since 2020, Intercape has opened a staggering 167 cases and rising with police, predominantly in the Eastern Cape.

In a hard-hitting 112-page affidavit issued out of the Makhanda High Court on 31 March 2023, Intercape slammed the police and investigative authorities for their continued failure to stop this “calculated campaign of criminality”.

“As matters presently stand, there are no persons under arrest and no pending prosecutions.”

The company is calling on the intervention of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI or Hawks) which is mandated to “prevent, combat and investigate” national priority offences, and specifically including organised crime.

Intercape has listed Minister of Police Bheki Cele as first respondent, followed by National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola. The company also cites the provincial commissioners of the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the North West, along with the Head of the DPCI, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Head of the Investigating Directorate.

Intercape said it had been forced to take this route following the “startling inaction from the Minister of Transport and the MEC for Transport and Community Safety for the Eastern Cape” in responding to the crisis.

Read | Taxi operators chase away mourners from slain Intercape bus driver’s funeral

The attacks against Intercape, particularly in the Eastern Cape, have continued despite several court orders compelling the transport minister and provincial counterpart to work with the South African Police Service to ensure the safety of passengers and Intercape employees.

Organised crime

The affidavit states: “For several years, Intercape’s buses, bus drivers and passengers have been subjected to widespread, ongoing and well-documented acts of intimidation and violence at the hands of the taxi industry.

“The violence and intimidation have not occurred in isolation but have been coupled with express demands from representatives of the taxi industry to operate on their terms. Taxi associations have convened multiple meetings with long-distance bus operators at which they have demanded that the bus operators:

  • increase their prices to an agreed minimum price for specified routes;
  • limit the number of buses operating each route; and
  • alter the departure times of buses to appease minibus taxi operators.

Intercape states that resistance to the demands “has been punished through acts of violence against Intercape’s buses, drivers and passengers, as well as the creation of so-called ‘no-go zones’ in which taxi industry representatives – through the threat and infliction of violence – have made it exceedingly difficult and dangerous for long-distance bus operators to load and offload passengers”.

The “no-go zones” are in the Eastern Cape towns of Butterworth, Ngcobo, Tsomo, Dutywa and Cofimvaba.

Intercape argues that the correlation between the ongoing violence and the taxi associations’ demands is no coincidence. “In combination, they amount to a campaign of organised crime, the fundamental aim of which is to drive Intercape (and other long-distance bus operators) out of certain parts of the country so that taxi operators may monopolise and take over the long-distance transport industry, and, consequently, increase their profits.”

The company charges that the attacks form part of a “pattern of racketeering activity” as defined in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (“the POCA”).

Cases opened in vain

Intercape says opening over 160 cases with SAPS has been “in vain” as nothing has come of this.

Intercape argues that the cases reported demand investigation and prosecution at two levels:

Firstly, the cases should be investigated individually, as independent acts of criminality. Where there is sufficient evidence, the perpetrators should be prosecuted for crimes such as murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and malicious damage to property

Second, the acts of criminality should be investigated collectively, as forming part of an overarching scheme of organised crime. Where there is sufficient evidence, the offenders should also be prosecuted for their role in a campaign of organised crime.

Intercape argues that despite SAPS and the DPCI having the power and duty to investigate the cases opened by Intercape at both the individual and collective levels, they have failed to do either.

The company pointed out that from the 165 cases opened by Intercape as at 31 March, there had been one arrest, linked to the April 2022 murder of Intercape driver Bangikhaya Machana, but that charges have since been withdrawn against the suspect.

Intercape says it has gone further than mere reporting of incidents, providing SAPS and the DPCI with affidavit evidence, schedules of reported cases, and extensive evidence.

“But the SAPS and the DPCI have done nothing meaningful with this evidence,” the company charges. “And their conduct suggests that they have little if any intention of doing so…”

Intercape says that as a result the criminal justice system is being undermined from within and the reign of terror over Intercape’s buses, drivers and passengers persists with impunity.

Relief sought

Intercape is asking for an urgent order declaring that SAPS and the DPCI have failed to properly investigate and prevent crimes being perpetrated against Intercape.

Amongst others, it asks that the court order that a report be submitted to the NPA within 60 days detailing all steps taken and progress made in investigating each of the cases opened and the status of each investigation, to enable to the NPA to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of the crimes.

Furthermore, that senior police report to the National Head of the DPCI those cases which reveal the presence of organised crime which requires national prevention or investigation and that the DPCI reports steps it has taken to effectively investigate these priority offences.

The affidavit concludes: “The risk of injury or death to Intercape’s drivers and passengers is as great as it has ever been. Intercape itself has no means to prevent it.

“While it has previously approached this court to require the Transport authorities to devise an action plan to ensure that Intercape can safely transport passengers to and from the Eastern Cape, the drafting and implementation of that action plan has been woefully inadequate. Unless and until those responsible for orchestrating these acts of violence are placed behind bars, and a clear message is sent that this type of organised crime will not be tolerated, the risk of injury and death will persist.”

The continued threat posed to Intercape’s staff and passengers by the brazen acts of those involved in this organised campaign of violence is evidenced by the fact that, in the 11 days since Intercape issued this application, it has been the victim of 14 further attacks or incidents of intimidation. In these attacks, some of its passengers sustained injuries. Still, there has been no effective police action to investigate and arrest those involved. Issued by Intercape, 12 April 2023