As we are nearing the end of the year 2021, most of us feel a little bit punch drunk by the events that took place during this year, whilst some will end the year in high spirits. Some of the events may have been in our control and some out of our control. Is it then not an ideal time to reflect on the year behind us and assess to what extent did we unleash our God given talents to contribute to humanity and its well-being?
Yes, it is indeed an ideal time to do a dipstick test, wipe it off, decide what should be done next and proceed with the journey.
In doing the dipstick test, as a public transport services company, and a key economic player in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipal area of the Free State, we experienced a number of challenges of which, amongst others, we can name the following:
- The impact of the global Covid 19 pandemic: Our passenger figures declined drastically due to lockdown restrictions since March 2020, and we have started to see a little bit of improvement only in the second half of 2021.
As a result of the above, we had to again bid farewell to another 20 employees as we had to embark on yet another Section 139 retrenchment process.
- The decline in passenger numbers is further exacerbated by the prevailing economic decline in the area as we have seen a lot of small businesses closing down, right sizing and retrenching their workers who happened to be our clients.
The ever-increasing rate of unemployment offers us no better prospects of easily turning around our fortunes in the near future, as we have not witnessed any new investment and job creation projects in our locality.
We have also continued experiencing rising maintenance costs due to the deteriorating road infrastructure – Bad roads lead to an increase in road breakdowns due to flat tyres, unforeseen electrical faults due to the unusual beating that the electronics of the bus have to take, springs and airbags give in leading to us not being able to honour our promise to the customer of taking them from point A to B and even C in other routes.
Progress and solutions
The aforementioned challenges necessitate that we think outside the box, to push the normal boundaries in an effort to keep the company afloat and to sustain our much-needed services to the communities we serve. The pandemic has ushered in a new normal, which we all have to adapt to or die. Given the huge responsibility we have in serving our communities as contracted by the Department of Police, Roads and Transport, we took it upon ourselves to come up with interim solutions whilst we continue to engage the Department and the Municipality for lasting solutions around road infrastructure and how we can work together to alleviate the fare pressure on commuters. We have, over the past few years, placed before both the Metro and the Department of Police, Roads and Transport the need for them to budget additional funds as a Province to supplement the Public Transport Operations Grant by the National Department of Transport that subsidises the working commuter. We will therefore in the new year once again vigorously pursue this matter with the aforementioned institutions and hope for the best outcome for the benefit of the loyal commuters we serve.
We have in the current year invested hugely in the procurement of new replacement buses to keep to our service delivery standard and ensure the safety of our commuters. We even went to the extent of investing in road works equipment like a TLB, two Tipper Trucks and a Grader to attend to the bad road conditions. On that note, I wish to heartily thank the Board of Directors and shareholders of our company who have allowed us as management to repurpose part of their returns for the benefit of ensuring our commuters and communities who depend on these roads are able to use them in challenging weather conditions. When we repair these roads we do not only do so for IBL busses, but also for other road users and service providers like emergency vehicles (ambulances), funeral undertakers, the SAPS etc. We however can only do so to a limited extent as it is not part of our core business, hence we call upon key decision makers in government to focus their plans and resources on the right things.
As we end the year we do so looking forward to yet another year and we remain positive that, despite the aforementioned challenges and those that we have not yet experienced, we have a team of diligent and committed Interstaters who will continue to serve our loyal commuters with distinction in the new year of 2022.
We take this opportunity to wish all our valuable stakeholders a blessed end of year and pray to Almighty God that each and every one of you our valuable commuters, your families and relatives may experience a Blessed, Joyous festive period and that the new year, 2022, be an equally fulfilling year, that is full of prosperity and success in all areas of your lives. Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year until we meet again.
Chief Executive Officer