MORE than 10% of scholar transport drivers in the Eastern Cape do not have a valid driver’s licence, Transport MEC Mandisa Marawu has revealed.

The province has been plagued by scholar transport accidents that have left 15 children dead this year.

Responding to questions from the DA, Marawu revealed that of the 2 246 scholar transport drivers, 240 do not have valid driver’s licences.

Marawu also revealed that her department has also discovered that 81 vehicles are unroadworthy.

On Monday, a 65seater scholar transport bus ferrying Menziwa High School pupils in Ndibela village crashed.

The department also revealed that there are 1 576 minibus taxis and 679 buses transporting 57 644 learners in the province.

In a statement yesterday, the DA said they would request the Public Protector to investigate scholar transport in the province.

DA MPL Dacre Haddon said his party was shocked and appalled that the department of transport continued to allow the flawed system to steal away the lives of innocent schoolchildren.

“Yesterday a bus carrying some 65 pupils overturned leaving victims with broken bones and serious head and neck injuries.

“Premier Noxolo Kiviet, and the MEC for transport, Thandiswa Marawu, must be held accountable,” Haddon said.

“What is of concern is the department’s inability to prevent such illegal operators from doing business.

“Criminal charges must be laid against the driver responsible for this latest accident and a full investigation must be made into why a 60-litre drum of diesel was being transported in the bus,” he said.

“I will be writing to the Public Protector, to request an investigation into the department’s oversight of the scholar transport system, including the corrupt contract with One Development 46, the flouting of requirements regarding roadworthiness of vehicles and Certificates of Fitness for drivers and why, in some areas, parents are forced to use unsafe private transport department does scholar transport.”

In March, six pupils of Mebelengwe Senior Secondary School in Libode were killed.

In April four children of the Jikindaba Senior Secondary School near Flagstaff died and in May five pupils were killed and 30 injured near Ngqeleni. He said the DA believed that accidents and deaths could be avoided if the department does proper oversight and utilises creative ways of transporting schoolchildren.

Transport department spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said the provincial government was disappointed at the public transport operators for the continuous occurrence of road accidents involving scholar transport vehicles.

“When the department entered into a contract with One Future Development 46, we agreed that all vehicles involved in scholar transport must have a certificate of fitness and be tested for roadworthiness every six months,” Kumbaca said.

He said all operators involved in the scholar transport programme must have: Current Operating Licences Public Drivers Permits, and Public Passenger Liability Cover of R50 000 per pupil, which is very important.