Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says drivers who overload vehicles and put people’s lives at risk will be severely punished. He addressed the media at the scene of Monday’s bus crash in the Eastern Cape that claimed 25 lives.
The bus is alleged to have been carrying more than 90 passengers while its capacity is 75.
Mbalula says public transport operators who are found to be negligent will face the full might of the law.
“We have laws in place that enable us to take drastic measures where there’s wilful disregard of our road, traffic, and public transport law. We will not hesitate to withdraw operating licenses of any public transport operator whose drivers behave recklessly and put people’s lives at risk. We’ll similarly not hesitate to lay criminal charges where there’s evidence of criminal conduct.”
I am here now at Butterworth Hospital – to speak to the families. And see the people who were involved in this tragic accident.
In sending the government’s heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and the community of Centane. pic.twitter.com/D9PiNTV8MC
— Minister of Transport |Mr Fix (@MbalulaFikile) March 3, 2020
Grieving families of the 25 people killed have the heart-breaking task of identifying the bodies and belongings of their loved ones.
In the video below SABC journalist Yanga Funani reports that a victim support centre has been set up in Butterworth for the families of the deceased:
The bus company says it will conduct its own investigation into the cause of the horror crash. Representatives of the AB 350 bus company visited the crash site on Tuesday and sent their condolences to the families of the victims.
The company denies that the bus was overloaded but says it will await the outcome of the investigation. AB 350’s stakeholder relations officer, Manelisi Siguqa has blamed the condition of the road for the crash.
“In terms of our person who was on the bus at the time of the accident, all that she has said to us is that there were actually 65 passengers in the bus and it’s something that we have not verified so we cannot rely on it either. The capacity of the bus takes about 75 passengers. At the moment we are the only company that is rendering this service from very rural areas where in certain areas our roads are not user-friendly. This bus is two years old. In all fairness and probabilities we have got all reasons to believe the bus was in a very good condition.”
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his sadness and concern over the incident. The President’s spokesperson Khuselwa Diko says Ramaphosa’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of the passengers who died in the crash.
“He also has directed Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula and the Provincial Government of the Eastern Cape to reach out to affected families and provide the necessary assistance, and it is imperative to establish the factors that led to this tragedy. This tragedy leaves our country deeply saddened and forces us to focus yet again on the need for transport providers and other road users to exercise care and consideration on our roads,” says Diko.