No comprise on safety regulations for scholar transport, says MEC

Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie speaking with scholar transport drivers at a meeting last month.

Metro police and City Law Enforcement officers impounded 236 taxis to the value of R1.7 million in Mitchell’s Plain in the first five months of the year.

This is according to a statement issued by Ward 76 councillor Avron Plaatjies, on Monday.

It said the City police had only received four traffic complaints in the Mitchell’s Plain area in February, during the first five months of the year.

The statement comes after five pupils were killed in a vehicle crash while on their way to different schools in Mitchell’s Plain, on Tuesday May 30 (“Five pupils killed in crash,” Plainsman May 31).

The statement referred to 72 vehicle check points and 39 arrests. It said more than 26 500 fines had been issued for speeding.

Regular inspections were conducted on routes commonly used by scholar-transport vehicles, with a specific focus on verifying the legality and adherence to safety regulations, said Mr Plaatjies. The inspections aimed to identify non-compliant operators and take appropriate action against them.

Mr Plaatjies said Mitchell’s Plain had been grappling with the issue of illegal and non-compliant scholar transport for several years.

“The safety and well-being of schoolchildren are of paramount importance, and ensuring their secure transportation to and from school is a shared responsibility of parents, schools, and law enforcement agencies,” he said.

City Law Enforcement had intensified its efforts to curb illegal scholar transport, he said.

“These unlicensed operators often operate overcrowded vehicles, neglect proper safety measures, and employ drivers who do not possess the necessary documentation or clearances. Such practices not only jeopardise the physical well-being of the children but also undermine their educational experience by causing unnecessary delays and disruptions,” he said.

Meanwhile, a planned strike by scholar-transport drivers last week fizzled out when Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie called a meeting with them.

A letter from the Mitchell’s Plain Scholar Drivers Project, a non-profit organisation, did the rounds last week saying drivers would strike on Thursday June 8, Friday June 9 and Monday June 12. Among their list of grievances were complaints about long waiting periods for permits, the impounding of vehicles, costly fines and victimisation.

“This no driving will not only affect Mitchell’s Plain but will affect all areas. We thank you for understanding and support in this movement,” said the letter.

However, a further letter, dated June 7, said the strike would be put on hold pending the outcome of the meeting with Mr Mackenzie on Thursday June 8.

Mr Mackenzie said he had previously met with the scholar-transport drivers (“Emergency meeting on scholar transport,” Plainsman May 17). That meeting at Hazeldene Primary School, on Thursday May 11, came a week after a memorial service for a 10-year-old Grade 5 girl at the school who was killed in a taxi crash on Swartklip Road on Tuesday April 18.

Her death was followed by that of 10-year Rocklands Primary School pupil who was killed when a taxi full of school pupils collided with a BMW, on AZ Berman Drive, on Monday April 24 (“Boy, 10, dies in taxi crash,” Plainsman April 25).

Mr Mackenzie said that the law was “crystal clear on the safety requirements for public transport”.

“I called the meeting today (June 8) to clarify the issues and a way forward. I understand their very real concerns about not being able to become licensed with vehicles that are too old or not fit for purpose,” he said.

However, there would be no compromise on those requirements as it would put peoples’ lives at risk, especially children.

“Our mobility department will continue to assist them with licensing processes, offering training and support where possible so that there are safe, reliable, affordable mobility options for learners to get to school,” said Mr Mackenzie.

City Traffic Service spokeswoman Maxine Bezuidenhout said that the rules and regulations pertaining to vehicle safety, driver behaviour and road safety were applied equally throughout the metropole.

The scholar-transport drivers did not respond to questions by deadline.