Update on the Rheenendal Bus Tragedy
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has already begun a thorough investigation into the causes of the Rheenendal bus accident. Update: 14 learners and the bus driver confirmed dead.
While we can't speculate on the reasons for the crash at this stage, we can confirm to the media some of the details regarding the WCED's contract with the bus company concerned.
When awarding tenders to bus companies for learner transport, a particular bus is assigned to a particular route. The size of the bus is determined according to the number of learners registered for learner transport on that route.
The WCED has very stringent measures in place to monitor the condition of buses used to carry learners. We have a team of seven monitors who check compliance with tender requirements continually. This includes ensuring that the necessary roadworthy certificates and other relevant documentation are in place.
The WCED's roadworthy requirements are more stringent than those usually required by traffic authorities in that bus contractors have to obtain roadworthy certificates every six months, rather than every 12 months.
According to our records, the vehicle approved for transport on this route is a bus that seats 67 learners. Sixty-five learners are registered on this route in our learner transport scheme.
However, the bus involved in today's accident is a 32-seater bus, which is usually assigned to another bus route.
The WCED will be investigating why a smaller bus was used on this particular day to transport learners, as opposed to the 67-seater bus in terms of the service-level agreement entered into between the WCED and the bus contractor concerned.
There are only limited circumstances where buses can be substituted.
We would also like to make clear that the two buses, the 32-seater and the 67-seater bus, were road compliant and have been tested regularly on a six-month basis.
The WCED continues to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of our learners in the public school system, including those who have to make use of learner transport.