Africa-Press – South-Africa. Five million rand … The amount Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira was allegedly told he must pay to stop attacks on the company’s buses, the Eastern Cape High Court has heard.
Intercape’s legal team presented a range of evidence unpacking the scale of the extortion the long-haul bus company faces, including the audio recording of a telephone conversation with an alleged taxi representative who told Ferreira that if he agreed to pay R5 million, the attacks would stop.
Intercape has approached the court seeking a relief order compelling the SA Police Service (SAPS) to investigate the attacks and provide safety for passengers and drivers.
This comes after a recent court order compelling the police and transport authorities to work together to develop and implement a safety plan to protect buses from attacks, which Intercape claims are driven by the taxi industry.
News24 previously reported that Intercape claimed that it had faced demands from the taxi industry to adjust prices and limit operations. Resistance to these demands was met with violence against its buses.
In the latest round of the protracted court battle, Intercape brought an urgent application against the police minister, the national police commissioner and five of his provincial counterparts, as well as the Hawks.
At the time of publication, the police ministry, national police and the Hawks had not commented.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Priscilla Naidu said:
The company’s legal team told Judge Olav Ronaasen that, since March, Intercape had lodged 165 criminal complaints with the police, mainly in the Eastern Cape, yet no one had been arrested and no prosecutions were pending.
With drivers being shot at and buses stoned, Intercape argued that it’s only a matter of time before passengers are killed.
Intercape counsel Kate Hofmeyr argued that the bus company had provided “extensive and carefully collated evidence” to the police.
Among the evidence were copies of WhatsApp messages in which extortionist demands were made; bank records reflecting payments made into the accounts of taxi operators who had demanded “donations” to cover travel costs; and recordings of meetings with taxi operators in which they dictated the terms on which buses would be permitted to operate.
There were also audio recordings in which a taxi representative demanded R5 million from the company.
Hofmeyr said: “In the face of this extensive and detailed evidence, it is nothing short of staggering that not a single person depicted in these photographs or recorded in these conversations has been arrested.
“In the face of the sheer weight of evidence that taxi operators are conducting a campaign of intimidation and violence, it is clear that police are either unwilling or unable to take decisive action, which is in breach of their constitutional duties.”
She said these failures constituted a “gross level of ineptitude and a staggering misunderstanding” of the police’s legal duties.
Judgement was reserved.
Last month, the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda made final an earlier order which compels Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, Eastern Cape Transport MEC Xolile Nqatha and the police to develop a comprehensive plan to “provide for the safety and security of long-distance bus drivers and passengers”.
It requires visible law enforcement presence at every loading point in hotspot areas and law enforcement escorts for buses on hotspot routes.
Hotspot towns include Cofimvaba, Butterworth, Engcobo, Tsomo and Dutywa.