SAPS commissioners could face jail for contempt of court …

The South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner Sehlahle Fannie Masemola and Eastern Cape Commissioner Nomthetheleli Lillian Mene may have to talk their way out of jail tomorrow (Thursday 14 December) (Judgment has been reserved until 19 December). In what could be a landmark case, they have been summonsed to appear in court to explain the failure to implement a ruling handed down last year to prevent violence and intimidation against long-distance coach passengers. In this interview with BizNews, Intercape Executive Chairman Johann Ferreira explains why the legal route has been resorted to: “ apart from just talking about it and moaning about it and threatening about it, we decided to embark upon a strategy to prove, not only to ourselves but to South Africa, whether South Africa is a failed state, whether the Eastern Cape is a failed state – and we’re using the proper process, the court process, to highlight whether our judiciary system can hold its own against the onslaught of this lawlessness in the country.” Ferreira recalls how he had “forewarned” President Cyril Ramaphosa, Police Minister Bheki Cele, and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula two years ago. “I said, you’re going to have the blood on your hands if you don’t act. They chose, wilfully, knowingly, chose not to protect their constituents. In specifically the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape and other provinces, they have used the man in the street that relies on public transport to be cannon fodder for the taxi operators. Now, why would a president and the Minister of Police and the Minister of Transport fight against the protection of the common man in the street?” – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:23 – What is happening tomorrow? (14/12/2023)
  • 02:12 – Amount of cases filed since last October
  • 03:16 – How many other arrests have there been?
  • 03:43 – Violence, intimidation and death
  • 04:44 – Rogue taxi associations
  • 05:21 – Their demands
  • 07:35 – What has driven you to take extreme action?
  • 11:38 – Conclusions 

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Highlights from the interview

___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner Sehlahle Fannie Masemola and Eastern Cape Commissioner Nomthetheleli Lillian Mene may have to talk their way out of jail tomorrow (Thursday 14 December) (Judgment has been reserved until 19 December) when a contempt of court application is heard in the High Court in Makhanda.

In what could be a landmark case, the two police commissioners have been summonsed to explain the failure to implement a ruling handed down last year to prevent violence and intimidation against long-distance coach passengers.

In this interview with BizNews, Intercape Executive Chairman Johann Ferreira explains why the legal route has been resorted to: “ apart from just talking about it and moaning about it and threatening about it, we decided to embark upon a strategy to prove, not only to ourselves but to South Africa, whether South Africa is a failed state, whether the Eastern Cape is a failed state – and we’re using the proper process, the court process, to highlight whether our judiciary system can hold its own against the onslaught of this lawlessness in the country.”

Ferreira recalls how he had “forewarned” President Cyril Ramaphosa, Police Minister Bheki Cele, and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula two years ago. “I said, you’re going to have the blood on your hands if you don’t act. They chose, willfully, knowingly, chose not to protect their constituents. In specifically the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape and other provinces, they have used the man in the street that relies on public transport to be cannon fodder for the taxi operators. Now, why would a president and the Minister of Police and the Minister of Transport fight against the protection of the common man in the street?”

Since the September 2022 ruling by Mr Justice John Smith, a further 40 cases have been reported in the Eastern Cape, as well as a further eight nationally.

“He was very, very clear that protection has to be given to the traveling public of South Africa and the bus drivers, specifically in the Eastern Cape; visual policing and also escorting of buses. Now obviously that hasn’t happened and we’ve called time and time and time again on the police asking for their assistance and they just don’t…they just don’t come. So the situation flared up over the last few weeks.

“And it’s very interesting when the taxi marshalls and operators show up in thirty-forty men strong at the bus stops, then there’s no police. The moment they gone, then suddenly the police appear. So we have seen very, very interesting and alarming trends of the interaction between police and…the taxi operators…

“Unfortunately, we’ve not received the necessary protection as the court ordered, and we had to call in private security to safeguard the passengers and letting passengers board and disembark from the coaches at huge expense.

“And we need to hold these people that’s in office accountable. We are all accountable. If we do something wrong, we get arrested, we get put in jail. Why are they above the law? They’re not above the law. Same rule applies. So we will check and see… if the same rule applies. And if it doesn’t, then actually we’ve reached the milestone in proving that there is a problem, even in our judiciary system. Because if people’s lives doesn’t matter, what would matter?”

In the last three years, Intercape has opened more than 175 cases with the SAPS, largely in the Eastern Cape. Many of these cases record violent incidents, and a number of these attacks have led to serious injuries to employees and passengers of Intercape. In April 2022, Intercape bus driver Bangikhaya Machana died in hospital days after being shot outside the company’s depot. A few months later, a driver was shot and critically wounded at the same place. 

“Passengers were seriously injured, shot in the stomach and the legs. So it’s been a very traumatic situation.”

As for the demands of the taxi associations, Ferreira says: “…they wanted to dictate the departure times out of the Eastern Cape. All coaches need to leave before 12 because the taxis want to make use of the opportunity to load all the people that want to travel after work, which is the big demand time, not in the morning. They wanted to dictate or they dictated the pricing. They wanted to double the prices of the coaches that we were charging at the time. They dictate office hours, how many hours in a day the office might be open and sell tickets. They want to dictate how many buses can be on a specific route…

“And it’s just to drive out the existing operators so that the taxi operators can put the passengers in taxis or put them in buses…”

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