Public Protector must investigate EC scholar transport

Dacre Haddon MPL

Spokesperson on Transport

The DA will be requesting the Public Protector to investigate scholar transport in the Eastern Cape following another accident involving school children yesterday.

The DA is shocked and appalled that the Department of Transport continues to allow the flawed scholar transport system to steal away the lives of innocent school children.  Yesterday a bus carrying some 65 pupils overturned on a dirt road near the Menziwa High School in Ndibela Village, leaving victims with broken bones and serious head and neck injuries.

The Premier, Noxolo Kiviet and the MEC for Transport, Thandiswa Marawu, must be held accountable.  I will be submitting questions for written reply to the MEC for a full account of the accidents involving school children over the past year and what action, if any, has been taken by her department against those responsible.

In a reply to a legislature question, the MEC revealed that 81 un-roadworthy scholar transport vehicles were stopped at roadblocks in the province, and 240 drivers had been found with no valid driver’s licences.  What is of concern is the department’s inability to prevent such illegal operators from doing business.  For the reply, click here.

Criminal charges must be laid against the driver responsible for this latest accident and a full investigation must be made into why a 60l drum of diesel was being transported in the bus.

I will be writing to the Public Protector, to request an investigation into the department’s oversight of the scholar transport system, including the corrupt contract with One Development 46, the flouting of requirements regarding road worthiness of vehicles and Certificates of Fitness for drivers and why, in some areas, parents are forced to use unsafe private transport because the department does not provide scholar transport.

We cannot allow the carnage to continue.  In March six pupils of Mebelengwe Senior Secondary School in Libode were killed.   In April four children of the Jikindaba Senior Secondary School near Flagstaff died and in May five pupils died and 30 were injured near Ngqeleni.

The DA believes that unnecessary accidents and deaths like this can be avoided if the department does proper oversight and utilises creative ways of transporting school children, for example by appointing additional independent transport operators.

This would create opportunities for empowerment for vehicle operators to start and manage a small business.  Competition would create competitiveness, improve efficiency and drive down prices.

In addition, the Department of Transport needs to find creative ways with the Department of Education to ensure our children can get to school without having to rely on inefficient and dangerous transport.  Such initiatives could include the establishment of schools nearer to communities and home-based boarding, creating yet more opportunities for business.

The days of cosy, closed school transport cabals and monopolies with the department must end and must be replaced with cost effective, safe and reliable transport from as many responsible and reliable stakeholders as possible.