Zululand Observer - Weekender
New bus depot unveiled
THE high profile unveiling and launch of eShowe-based Mlalazi Trading’s new bus depot and buses on Thursday marked a high point in the co-operative’s business journey.
Mlalazi Trading has ploughed R10.5-million into purchasing five new buses to expand its fleet and routes.
This necessitated the building of a R3,5-million modern bus depot with facilities to maintain and repair the co-op’s fleet.
The depot will accommodate 14 buses, offices and a board room.
The depot was officially opened and the new buses unveiled by MEC of Transport Mxolisi Kaunda at a ceremony also attended by Chairman of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders iNkosi Phatisizwe Chiliza, uMlalazi mayor Cllr TB Zulu and Deputy Mayor BP Simelane, Ithala Acting Group CE Themba Mathe, members of the KZN Bus Council, members of SANTACO and local business people.
After the formalities at the depot, the dignitaries boarded a bus for a ride to the King Dinizulu Stadium for a launch with the local residents.
The road travelled
Mlungisi Mbhele representing Mlalazi Trading, a co-operative formed by the eShowe long distance, King Dinizulu and Gingingdlovu Taxi Associations thanked Ithala saying they would not have been here without its support.
Themba Mathe, Ithala Acting Group Chief Executive said the organisation financed the co-operative’s acquisition of the buses as it was in line with Ithala’s mandate and economic transformation goals of taking business from one level to the next.
‘It also talked to the empowering impact of investment on the social fabric of the community by providing safe, reliable transport for people to get to and from their destinations,’ he said.
He pointed out that the business did not happen by a miracle and it faced challenges.
What has been achieved, started with a vision and success of the business was made possible through the working together of the Department of Transport which provided the bus subsidies, Ithala which undertook the financing, Mlalalzi Trading and the SA National Taxi Council, the taxi umbrella body that is driving transformation.
Mathe said while this project talked to Radical Socio Economic Transformation the focus should be on the entire transport value chain so that other people from Umlalazi could come up with business plans to manufacture related parts such as tyres and batteries.
Mbhele said the co-op initially leased eight buses and when they saw further opportunity they approached Ithala for a loan to buy new buses and without hesitation the organisation provided an agreement and the money.
While things started off well, it hit problems in 2016 and the co-op members funded the operation until their pockets ran dry and as a last ditch, they approached the KZN Department of Transport for assistance.
They were given a contract to run particular routes in Umlalazi which helped turned the business around.
They now have 14 buses of which eight have been paid off.
iNkosi Phatisizwe Chiliza Chairman of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders appealed to residents to co-operate with the bus service and not to loot and plunder buses as has happened in other areas of the country.
The bus service had grown from transporting people by van to taxis and buses.
Other people were following suit, he said and encouraged the Mlalazi co-op to work with the new transport providers, rather than enter into wars, so that the businesses would support generations to come.
MEC Kaunda opened his speech outlining the changes the ANC had brought about in South Africa.
He said the department aimed to see transformation of bus transport in the province reach at least a level of 70% black ownership.