Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist


Mbalula’s appeal of court order to protect Intercape a refusal to do the job he’s paid for

Appealing an order to enforce the law essentially means government is seeking to be absolved of its responsibilities to citizens.


Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s decision to appeal the court order to protect Intercape bus company from ‘violent’ taxi associations has been described as dangerous, mindboggling and a terrible precedent.

Intercape has been under siege in recent months, allegedly from taxi operators in the Eastern Cape, with its buses being shot at or stoned and some areas in the province like Cofimvaba, Butterworth, Engcobo, Tsomo and Idutywa declared no-go zones.

Under attack

Police have failed to act on the criminals targeting the company with tactics which include instructing the bus company where, when, and what to charge passengers, leaving them with no choice but to turn to the courts for protection.

ALSO READ: Intercape-bus-terror: Operators-under-siege

Intercape buses have also been attacked in other provinces like Gauteng and Western Cape.

Intercpe
Intercape bus attack. Photo: Supplied.

By the time the matter was taken to court, after the murder of one of its drivers Bangikhaya Machana, in April, there had been more than 150 incidents of violence against the company.

The judge berated Mbalula and transport MEC Xolile Nqatha for persistently and unjustifiably breaching their legal duties to intervene in the crisis.

ALO READ: Mbalula-must-protect-intercape-buses-from-violence: Court-rules

In addition, Nqatha was found to have acted unlawfully when she required that Intercape negotiate with the taxi operators to regulate prices, frequency, or time of services in the Eastern Cape and to suspend its services pending the outcome of those negotiations.

The court ordered that Mbalula adhere to the state’s constitutional duties to protect citizens, and develop an action plan, in consultation with the police, to stop the attacks.

The minister, however, has decided to appeal the order.

Self-serving 

University of Free State anthropology of crime specialist Professor Theodore Petrus said Mbalula’s actions begged the question whose interests he is serving.

He said for the most part, government officials are not serving the interests of the people, but their own or of those forces who maintain their positions of power, either financially or otherwise.

ALSO READ: Special-unit-nab-suspect-in-deadly-Intercape-bus-attacks

“And because they are in those positions of power at the behest of those behind them, they are therefore there to serve the interests of those forces that have put them in those positions of power,” Petrus said.

He said Mbalula created an impression that he was favouring certain players in the transport industry over others.

He added that this set a dangerous precedence in that it emboldens those behind the attacks and emboldens other state departments to also simply refuse to carry out their legislative mandate.

Terrorism

Ricardo Mackenzie, DA Western Cape spokesperson on transport, found Mbalula’s rationale to be baffling, as the order was a perfect opportunity to address this criminality.

He said it was a simple matter of implementing laws that Mbalula and his department are responsible for enforcing, saying it meant the government did not care.

Truck and busses stoned N3
By the time the matter was taken to court, after the murder of one of its driver, Bangikhaya Machana, in April, there had been more than 150 incidents of violence against the company. Picture – Twitter” @rsa_trucker

“This situation is a threat to national security … National government is not only doing nothing to combat this, but is now seemingly actively seeking to be absolved it of its responsibilities,” Mackenzie said.

ALSO READ: Intercape blames taxi operators for spate of attacks

He said the attack on Intercape amounted to economic terrorism and that it was profoundly sad that a court has to ask government to do its job.  

Mackenzie said Intercape was issued with permits to operate, while those who wish to take over their business have no qualms about using violence to get their way.  

He added that this also sets a terrible precedent, as it seems Mbalula would rather shirk his responsibility and leave businesses and commuters at the mercy of criminals.

Middle finger

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, [SATAWU] called on Mbalula to intervene in the crisis, especially since the public using the buses are the ones suffering most.

Spokesperson Amanda Tshemese said these attacks, which she said were sparked by route disputes, have been going on for years.

She said it was disappointing that government has done nothing to stop the attacks and that, with the holidays around the corner, people will not only be stranded but will be hard hit financially.

“[Mbalula] must come up with a solution, we cannot be going to the courts over this. All we need is to put a stop to this. Does [the appeal] mean Mbalula has no plan? …Then we have a problem,” Tshemese said.

ALSO READ: Parliament-tourism-committee-calls-for-arrest-on-Intercape-bus-attacks

Intercape said it will respond to Mbalula’s latest move next week.

Mbalula’s office is yet to provide explanation to the minister’s decision, considering the fact that neither he nor the MEC had filed answering or confirmatory affidavits during the initial hearing. 

Mbalula’s application is just the latest in a series of court battles where government has to be forced to discharge its constitutional and legislative mandates.

In 2012, the Limpopo department of education was ordered to deliver textbooks to schools in an urgent application brought by public interest organisation Section27.

The department, in 2018, fought off an order forcing it to end the use of pit toilets, despite Michael Komape, a five-year-old pupil having drowned in a pit toilet in 2014.

NOW READ: Stop-going-to-court-rather-fix-schools-pit-toilets-equal-education