Commuters continue to bear brunt of bus strike

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The nationwide strike action affecting the South African bus industry entered its third day on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of commuters across the country continue to bear the brunt of the strike action over wages.

Drivers affiliated to union, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), embarked on a national strike on Wednesday.

They are demanding a 12% increase. Employers are offering 7%.

In Cape Town, more than 300 000 bus commuters are affected by the strike.

The Golden Arrow bus service transports 230 000 passengers daily and MyCiti, 75 000.

In the Southern Cape, around 14 000 people who make use of the GoGeorge bus service now have to find other ways to get to work.

The public transport system in Cape Town, which is already taking strain due to the bus drivers’ strike, has suffered a further setback.

Metrorail’s entire service in Cape Town was on Friday morning affected by a signal power failure. This means commuters who are already unable to make use of the two public bus services, can now expect even further transport delays.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says due to the power failure, their central control centre is currently unable to automatically detect track or dispatch trains

“Our technicians are already on site busy with repairs and section managers have been dispatched to assess where the manual method can be implemented in strategic areas it is at this stage to early to estimate a full recovery tie. Customer service staff are at stations to inform customers and commuters are advised to listen to station announcements.”

The South African Road Passenger Bargaining Council (SARPBC) says it is hopeful that a positive solution to the nationwide bus strike will be reached by the end of Friday. Negotiations between the unions, employers and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) are continuing.

SARPBC’s Secretary-General Gary Wilson says, “We are very positive with the negotiations. We have two very experienced CCMA commissioners that are assisting with the process and we are happy to report that there is some progress. We are hopeful that by today we will have some good outcome given that we are giving the process the best possible opportunity to succeed. So the negotiations will continue today. We have to by the end of today come out with something. We hope that by the end of the day we have a positive outcome. Both sides understand the seriousness of the situation and we have committed ourselves to finding a positive solution.”

Bus commuters in villages outside Tzaneen in Limpopo say they want the nationwide strike by Satawu and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) affiliated bus drivers to come to an end as it has a negative impact on them.

A number of commuters are forced to walk long distances from their villages to the main road to catch mini-buses. Some say they fear for their lives as they start walk through the bushes to the main roads so that they can easily access alternative transport. The say they are also paying high taxi fares unlike when they travel with buses. Learners who are schooling outside their villages are also hardest hit.

Some commuters who have already bought their bus tags and tickets for the month in Limpopo have called on the Great North Transport to refund them, so that they can use the money for alternative transport.

Commuters from Shikwambana village outside Tzaneen have expressed their frustration.

“Our main worry is that we have already bought tags for the month, but now we are not getting the services we are supposed to get from the bus company, some of us are forced to borrow money from neighbours, this is not fair,” says a commuter.

“We want them to come back and transport us because we have already used our hard earned money to buy tags but now buses are not running, whenever they decide to come back they must allow us to use these tags for the days that we have not been using them,” adds another commuter.

Commuters are also getting more frustrated in KwaZulu-Natal with the strike.