Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) has pleaded for more help from police after its bus drivers and Cape Town’s fire and rescue officers came under attack on Monday morning during a protest.
“This cannot continue – we need help and we need it now,” said GABS spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer.
Fire and rescue spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said two GABS buses had been torched during the protest and that, when the fire and rescue unit went out to help, the firefighters came under attack by an “extremely volatile” group.
It happened near the New Eisleben and Mpumelelo streets in Philippi.
Firefighters had to withdraw and police had to escort the fire and rescue specialists in again later to finish the job.
On Friday, three buses were torched near the Symphony Way bridge in the vicinity of the N2 national route. Two of the buses were gutted and one was “salvageable”. The passengers had to be taken home.
Last week, firefighters trying to put out a fire in nearby Delft South came under attack during load shedding, even with a police escort.
A brick was thrown at their windscreen and extra back-up was requested so that they could try and leave the area safely.
The crew was so shaken up that, after speaking to a chaplain, they were sent home, leaving Belhar Fire Station non-operational for the night.
Dyke-Beyer said both of the buses were completely gutted on Monday.
Five of the company’s buses have been completely gutted in the last two weeks.
“Fortunately, no injuries were reported and only the drivers were on board,” she said.
The company called on the police and other authorities to keep drivers and passengers safe, and for those responsible to be caught.
The company is almost 160 years old, and has grown to become part of the joint ventures between the City of Cape Town and its MyCiTi bus service.
With an ailing rail infrastructure, due to rampant cable theft and vandalism, and an impasse over a bus contract for the N2 Express from Khayelitsha, passengers are facing increasingly limited public transport options in some parts of Cape Town.
Taxis have become the solution for many, but there are also fears regarding catching a taxi, after shootings on Thursday and Friday.
City community safety MMC JP Smith sounded the alarm over this again last week, saying the attacks had devastating consequences for people who need emergency services.
“Not only does it slow down response times, as fire crews do not enter volatile areas without a police escort, but given the escalation in attacks – even with an escort – the City might be forced to withdraw this service altogether where unrest is being experienced,” he said.
A case of public violence and malicious damage to property is being investigated by police.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said according to reports, about 70 people from an informal settlement were conducting a service delivery protest.
“They blocked the road, two buses were torched and motorists were thrown with stones. No one has been arrested. Police are monitoring the situation,” she said.