Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Transport Wars

They threatened war. And on Tuesday night they fired the first shots. At least two Rea Vaya buses came under attack in what appears to be a drive-by shooting orchestrated by minibus taxi drivers.

Two bus passengers were wounded during the shooting in Soweto around 8pm.

Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Khabisi Mosunkutu was called out to the scene and vowed that the gunmen would be hunted down and brought to justice. He urged commuters to continue using the buses, saying: "We are ready for any eventuality."

The buses were ambushed along Klipspruit Valley Road in Klipspruit, Soweto. Although Mosunkutu would not confirm it, sources said a white minibus taxi pulled up to the bus and opened fire.

One bus managed to drive for several hundred metres, turned right into Potchestroom Road and reached the Regina Mundi Bus Rapid Transit terminal. The bus had a single bullet hole, and two passengers were wounded.

According to Netcare 911's Nick Dollman, a male was hit in the right foot and a female in the right leg. Both were treated on the spot and taken to hospital. The woman was allegedly an off-duty police officer.

"Both were in a stable condition," Dollman said.

Back at the scene of the shooting, the second bus had been hit by at least two bullets - both through the front windscreen. From their positioning, it seems the shooters were aiming for the driver.

Mosunkutu spent a while examining the buses and speaking to police officers and bus drivers. He confirmed that two buses were hit, but there were rumours that others had also come under attack.

"We are very thankful that we did not have more than two casualties. We hope they will mend quickly," he said.

"However, those who've done this deed think they can stop BRT. But they are making a serious mistake. The BRT programme goes ahead. No argument."

He said police would intensify investigations into the shooting and "get to the bottom of this".

"The buses will run tomorrow," he added. "And we'll make sure the security stays on course. There is no stopping the transformation of transport in Gauteng."

Asked who could be behind the attack, Mosunkutu said: "We are aware it is only those who are opposed to BRT."

He would not be pushed to confirm the attack was carried out by gunmen in a minibus taxi.

"All South Africans, except those opposed to BRT, are angered by this. But commuters must get on the buses. There will be security. Those responsible must know that it may take a little time, but we'll find them."

As Mosunkutu left the scene, an officer could be heard saying: "So it's a war!"

The Gauteng government has condemned the attack, which it viewed as an attempt to scare away commuters from the new buses. Spokesman Thabo Masebe said security would be reinforced at BRT stations and buses to prevent attacks.

Masebe said the police were working on possible leads.

Police apparently met late on Tuesday night to plan their response. They were due to boost security around the bus routes on Monday morning.

The BRT system was launched at the weekend. Its first real day of operations went off smoothly on Monday. Taxi drivers were due to strike yesterday, but called off the strike on the 11th hour.

Anna Cox reported that day two of the BRT rollout had got off to a smoother start early in the day, and officials' comments indicated a growing confidence in Rea Vaya.

"On day one the demand far exceeded capacity. With most taxis operating today, Rea Vaya was able to meet passenger demands as planned," said Rehana Moosajee, Joburg's member of the mayoral committee for transport.

She said all 40 buses were running and, generally, all the stations were operating smoothly, with station staff on hand to provide passenger information to commuters and visitors.

"A Mexican TV station crew visited Westgate station and spoke to staff and commuters so that they could file a story - Mexico also has a BRT system," said Moosajee.

"We did not experience any long queues, and buses were running on schedule. We are also keeping a close eye on passenger needs and will adjust timetables, if necessary, to ensure that we meet those needs."

Moosajee said the council was still ironing out some small glitches, such as the doors not operating properly, and it expected to have these sorted out by the end of the week.

1 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

It's looking better and better for WC2010. Nothing like shooting up a few pesky tourists to keep them in line.