Minibus drivers protest over loss of business

PRETORIA - Thousands of protesting minibus drivers blocked morning traffic in South Africa's capital on Wednesday, saying they would lose business during the World Cup.

The drivers say they have been excluded from transport planning for the billion dollar football tournament and that a new mass transit bus system will take away their livelihood.

Little public transport was provided for the black population under apartheid and they were forced to rely on the minibuses to get from distant townships to their places of work.

South Africa has used World Cup investment to address this problem, by trying to create an efficient, cheap bus system to reach sprawling townships like Soweto.

The minibus drivers, notorious for violence and bad driving, have thrown rocks at cars during previous protests but the demonstration in Pretoria on Wednesday was largely peaceful. The drivers blew the vuvuzela trumpet used by football fans and shouted slogans.

Heavy forces of riot police and armoured vans were deployed to control the demonstration which caused big rush hour congestion.

The area around the Union Buildings, which houses the offices of President Jacob Zuma and government ministers, was cordoned off by police.

Government officials say the minibus drivers will benefit from hundreds of thousands of domestic and foreign fans attending the World Cup and their fears over the bus system are exaggerated.

Leaders of the minibus drivers have promised not to disrupt the World Cup.

But demonstrators said the government must respond within a week. "Seven days or no World Cup in South Africa," some shouted.

Follow on Twitter
Join on Facebook