An Intercape bus driver has died days after being shot and critically wounded outside the company’s Cape Town depot as part of a campaign of violence and extortion against the Long-Distance Coach industry by rogue elements within the minibus taxi industry.
The murder of the 35-year-old male employee from Lower Crossroads is the latest and most tragic incident in a litany of violent attacks, including shootings, arson attacks and incidents of rock throwing, directed at the long-distance coach industry in South Africa.
The victim leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
In the space of just 13 months, there have been over 150 recorded violent incidents, a number of which have led to serious injuries to employees and passengers of the bus operators in the Long-Distance Coach industry.
See video of a number of incidents involving attacks on Intercape buses and employees.
The death of the Intercape employee comes as the company has pleaded repeatedly for urgent government intervention to stop the campaign of violence.
The Intercape employee was shot on Monday 25 April as he was exiting the company’s depot. He was shot three times and rushed to a nearby hospital in a critical condition where he underwent emergency surgery in a desperate bid to save his life.
CEO of Intercape Johann Ferreira said on Thursday: “We have been pleading with authorities to act urgently before innocent people are killed.
“Now it is too late and we at Intercape have been left utterly devastated to learn of the passing of our colleague.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with his wife and two children at this incredibly difficult time. Where do we go from here?”
Intercape, one of the industry’s largest and longest-standing companies, has been subjected to repeated attacks on its buses and employees as part of a campaign of violence and extortion to force it and other long-distance coach companies out of operating in certain regions and routes.
Ferreira said: “The long-distance train system in South Africa has been systematically burnt, and infrastructure destroyed and stolen by thugs and thieves and certain criminal elements within the taxi industry.
“The taxi industry is now busy with neutralising the long-distance bus operators, specifically in the Eastern Cape, and thus forcing passengers into the minibus taxis. This is called business capture or industry cleansing.”
“We have been engaging with the South African Police Service locally and there have also been talks with representatives of the taxi industry itself, but the attacks continue unabated and have intensified.
“We have now commenced engagements with the SAPS at the National Joint Operational Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) level and hope that this will bring about change.”
Ferreira confirmed that Intercape has also written to President Cyril Ramaphosa personally and included the video in a desperate bid to address the targeted attacks aimed at Intercape and the Long-Distance Coach industry.
The attacks are mainly centred around key towns and routes in the Eastern Cape as taxi operators appear intent on forcing companies like Intercape out of business through violent intimidation or extortion. In some instances, taxi operators have forced passengers off coaches or warned them against boarding.
“The situation is completely intolerable, and we are pleading with the President, police and the government to intervene as a matter of urgency,” Ferreira said.
Intercape has called for at least the following:
- that President Cyril Ramaphosa intervenes to address the crisis;
- that the Minister of Police orders police escorts for its coaches on all Eastern Cape routes until there is a guarantee that the environment is such that coaches can operate safely again;
- for an undertaking from the Minister of Police that the Eastern Cape SAPS will actively investigate case dockets in a bid to identify and arrest perpetrators of the attacks;
- that the Minister of Transport urgently addresses local taxi associations to bring an end to the violence; and
- that the President and Ministers of Police and Transport acknowledge the problem and undertake to deal with it urgently and comprehensively.
According to various industry sources, the taxi operators, through the violent attacks, are “sending a clear message” to the bus companies like Intercape to get out of the Eastern Cape and are operating like a law unto themselves.
The attacks pose a “clear and present danger to innocent lives and property,” Ferreira said.
“We have valid permits to operate on those routes, but it means absolutely nothing in the face of these attacks which are designed to push [Intercape] out.”
More than 100 cases have been opened with the SAPS but the attacks have continued unabated at key pick-up points along routes and on the road, as well as outside Intercape headquarters in Cape Town where there have been two brazen shooting incidents, the latest of which was fatal.
An Intercape long distance coach driver who did not wish to be named out of fear for his safety said: “Every time we travel along those routes, we are taking our lives in our hands.
“You see the attackers standing by the side of the road and the next minute you hear the gunshots ring out and the glass shattering.
“It is the most terrifying thing you can imagine as you duck to avoid the bullets and try to keep the bus under control as the passengers behind you scream with fear.”
Some routes in the Eastern Cape have become complete no-go zones for buses as taxi associations seek to drive competition out of the region.
“We have seen in other industries such as construction how localised business forums extort or seek to push legitimate companies out of business,” Ferreira said.
“In March, President Ramaphosa hosted South Africa’s fourth investment conference and announced new investment commitments of R332 billion, bringing the total to date to over R1 trillion. But what message are we sending out to the world when attacks such as these are tolerated and normalised?”
“What do we as law-abiding businesses do when such blatant aggression and violence is directed at innocent people and property?” Ferreira asked.
“We are pleading with government and the law enforcement agencies to act urgently and decisively to stop these targeted attacks.”