South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) members at North West Transport Investment (NTI) will march on the Department of Transport on Monday to demonstrate their displeasure at statements made by Minister Fikile Mbalula.
SATAWU Media Officer Zanele Sabela, said this follows last month Minister Mbalula meeting with community members to hear their complaints about NTI’s bus service in Hammanskraal, Mabopane and Atteridgeville.
She said without pausing to give regard to the various factors involved, Minister Mbalula told the community he would not renew the company’s contract when it lapses in April next year. Instead, he would put it out to tender and in the meantime, 200 extra buses would be brought in to replace the incumbent’s rundown buses.
“Had Minister Mbalula not been trying to be a populist, he would have promised to investigate and revert to them. On investigating, he would have found out NTI employs 1 800 people, 67% of whom are SATAWU members and it goes without saying in a country where more than 10 million people are currently unemployed, we cannot afford to lose any jobs let alone 1800,” she said.
NTI is wholly-owned by the North West government. The Union said If Minister Mbalula puts the bus service contract out to tender, what he effectively will be doing is taking away business from a state-owned entity and handing it over to private capital.
Moreover, it is a fallacy to think that handing over the contract to private business will benefit commuters. “The only winners will be the tenderpreneurs who are already lining up to provide the extra 200 buses Mbalula mentioned,” Ms Sabela said.
She said the transport sector plays a crucial role in the economy and “needs a sober-minded minister not one prone to shortcuts and populist stance.”
She said Instead of putting the bus service contract to tender, Minister Mbalula must fix state-owned NTI by appointing a competent board to turnaround NTI, recapitalize the state-owned entity to enable the purchase of new buses and rejuvenation of operations.
She said the Minister must look at reforming the bus subsidy contract regimen as a whole and not just for NTI.
“The current contracts were last renewed in the late 1990s and are no longer fit for purpose given the economy has changed drastically. The manner in which these contracts are structured with annual escalation rates suffocates profitability and many bus companies are struggling as a result.
“The Minister should therefore seek to safeguard the 1 800 jobs at NTI, ensure the people responsible for corruption and maladministration at NTI as per the 2013 Mochabapula report are prosecuted,” she said.
Ms Sabela said on Monday protestors will gather at the old bus depot grounds in Marabastad at 9 am and start marching to the Department of Transport at 10 am and handover the memorandum at 11.30 am.
Moretele Times requested the Department of Transport Media for comment through email to no avail at the time of publishing.