Days after long-distance coach company Intercape went public about a violent campaign waged against the industry by rogue taxi associations, three more of its buses have come under attack in Gauteng.
These attacks, which all happened in the last week of April, came after Intercape appealed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently intervene to stop the violence directed at the long-distance coach industry.
In the space of 13 months, there have been more then 150 recorded violent incidents in the industry, says Intercape. One of the company’s bus drivers was also shot and killed in Cape Town.
In one of the latest incidents, the occupants of an unidentified sedan fired on one of the company’s buses, en route from Pretoria to Umtata, on the M2 highway in Johannesburg.
Three shots were fired into the driver’s side of the coach. As the vehicle sped past, the assailants fired another five shots.
In another incident, an Intercape bus, en route from Pretoria to Umtata, came under fire as it approached the Geldenhuys Interchange from the M2, to join the N3 highway.
Video footage from the bus appears to show a gunman stationed on the bridge firing two shots at the coach, with one of the rounds striking a passenger in the leg.
The driver suffered facial injuries from the shattered glass.
In an attack on the same night, around seven kilometres before Johannesburg Station on the M2 highway, the occupants of an unidentified car driving in the fast lane opened fire on an Intercape coach travelling from Durban to Pretoria.
Again the driver was struck by flying glass.
“We could no longer keep quiet about the extortion and violence directed at Intercape and the long-distance coach industry in this country, so we made a public appeal to President Ramaphosa and government and this has since resulted in an escalation of attacks against Intercape coaches,” says Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira.
He says despite the fact that more than 60 cases have been opened with various police stations, the majority in the Eastern Cape, there had not been a single arrest to date.
“These gunmen and the murderers of our employee in Cape Town are out there walking freely and brazenly and think nothing of shooting at innocent people,” notes Ferreira.
“How are we expected to operate as a licensed business when there are criminal elements who openly target us? This is anarchy, plain and simple, and unless this is stopped and dealt with decisively, our country is on a path to self-destruction.”
Ferreira labels the campaign of violence which has included shootings, arson attacks and rock throwing, as “business capture” or “industry cleansing”, and further called for support from the broader business sector, the labour movement, as well as civil society.
“Who in their right mind will ever want to invest time and money in an economy which is held hostage by criminal enterprises who operate as a law unto themselves and with complete impunity?
“Today it is the long-distance coach, the mining and construction industries, tomorrow it will be other sectors of the economy which simply cannot afford to shed any more jobs.”
Intercape says the attacks were mainly centred around key towns and routes in the Eastern Cape, but there have also been attacks in the Cape metropole and Gauteng, as taxi operators appear intent on forcing companies like Intercape out of business through violent intimidation or extortion.
In some instances, taxi operators in the Eastern Cape have forced passengers off coaches, or warned them against boarding.
Some routes in the Eastern Cape have become no-go zones for buses, as taxi associations seek to drive competition out of the region.
The company is currently engaging with the South African Police Service at the National Joint Operational Intelligence Structure level in a bid to address the violent attacks.