Inequality and Economic Inclusion

Business health check: Western Cape Bus Operators’ Transport Co-operative Ltd (Siyakhula)

  • Year: 2008
  • Organisation: TIPS
  • Publication Author(s): Karen Harrison
  • Countries and Regions: South Africa

Siyakhula, or the Western Cape Bus Operators’ Transport Cooperative Ltd, operates within the bus sector of the transport industry. A brief description of the sector follows in order to contextualise the operations of the cooperative.

The transport, storage and communications sector increased its share in real output growth in the Western Cape from 8% in 1995 to 11% in 2002. However, the sector’s growth was due primarily to high growth in the communications sub-sector rather than within the transport sub-sector. The total income of the transport sector was estimated at R14-billion in 2002.

A review of the public transport system in the Western Cape showed that scheduled bus services in the province, particularly in the Metro, declined dramatically over the past decade in terms of the extent (or coverage) of routes, frequency and quality of services. This was largely due to the impact of poor service levels coupled with increased competition from minibus taxis providing commuters with a convenient alternative.

There are about 22,000 buses in the transport industry in South Africa of which approximately 17,000 are involved in formal public transport activities (i.e. for reward/subsidy). The other 5,000 buses are found in commerce and industry and government institutions where they are mostly used for in-house purposes (i.e. not for reward/subsidy). Within the industry, it is possible to distinguish between the big operators, such as Putco and Golden Arrow, and the small operators who own between one and 30 buses.

The public transport buses provide direct employment to about 30,600 people throughout the country with about 153,000 people indirectly dependent on the industry (or directly related to employment in companies). The industry also supports a large number of suppliers, such as bus and chassis manufacturers, fuel and tyre companies, that are in some way dependent on the industry for employment. The public transport operators undertake approximately 816 million passenger trips per annum.

The public transport industry is represented by the Southern African Bus Operators’ Association (SABOA). SABOA was formed as a national body in 1980 by the five leading bus companies in order to protect their interests as subsidised transport operators by the Department of Transport. SABOA has gone through a significant transformation and now represents about 76% of the public transport fleet.

Members are offered the following services by SABOA: commuter, contract, learner, organised party, charter and tourism, cross border (international), and scheduled coaches. Given the broad membership of SABOA, its profile could be regarded as representative of the industry as a whole, as evident in Table 1.