Sat, 08 Aug 2020

A passenger, who was injured when a MyCiTi bus was petrol bombed in Cape Town, has been discharged from hospital but the driver of the bus is still receiving medical attention, according to the City of Cape Town.

"The bus driver's condition is stable. He is still in hospital," City mayoral committee member Felicity Purchase said after the bus was petrol bombed in Woodstock on Monday night.

The passenger, who was released from hospital on Tuesday, and the driver were injured when the bus came under attack in Roodebloem Road.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) stepped in to investigate complaints raised by a large group of fired MyCiTi bus drivers who refused to budge from outside Cape Town's Civic Centre.

They were fired after downing tools in October in an apparent attempt to get the City to hire them directly and to attend to complaints about some of their working conditions. They work for contracted vehicle operating companies (VOC).

SAHRC Western Cape commissioner Chris Nissen said the rights body had received complaints of alleged infringement of the drivers' and staffers' dignity. They claim they are only able to rest and eat in the bathrooms of some bus stations.

They also wanted the Public Protector to look into the sacked staffers' concerns and labour relations complaints, Nissen said.

Patrick Mabindisa, a spokesperson for the strikers, said they had a meeting on Wednesday with Mayor Dan Plato, Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith, Purchase and a director responsible for the management of the VOC contracts.

By his count, 372 drivers, cleaners and platform ambassadors, such as queue managers and cashiers, were fired.

Damage over R18m

Five buses have been damaged so far during the strike at a cost of more than R18m. Monday's petrol bombing incident will push the damages higher.

According to Mabindisa, the City stated clearly that it could not speak to them because they worked for the contracted VOCs - not for the City.

However, the workers feel that since it is City money being paid to the VOCs, the City has a right to speak to them.

"We drove the City's buses. We wore the City's jackets. We are displaying the City every day wherever we go," he said.

Purchase reiterated that the City had no mandate to get involved in the labour dispute.

The City also cannot insource employees because they signed a 12-year contract with the VOCs, she said.

The service has been running at 90% capacity the last week with staffers in plain clothes and cautionary notices that schedules are subject to change.

Groups of strikers still huddle on the benches outside the Civic Centre, borrowing money from family members or dipping into their savings to get to the Civic Centre every day.

They are also hoping that their plight will be raised at the next council meeting.

Mabindisa rejected allegations that they were pawns in a political ploy and said the Economic Freedom Fighters were helping them because they asked them for advice.

One of the unions, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, was also trying to set up a meeting with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Plato for next week.

In the meantime, they are facing a bleak Christmas.

"We have families and they are giving us a little money to get here. Some of us have a little saved up. We're going to be hungry for Christmas."

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