From a lodge accommodating 20 GO GEORGE staff members for free on Wednesday night, to people offering counselling services and many changing their Facebook and WhatsApp profile photos to the GO GEORGE logo, the response of the George public to the violent protest action against GO GEORGE last week which left four buses burnt down and two severely damaged, is without a doubt: Don’t mess with our buses!
“Even people from other cities responded on our GO GEORGE Facebook page with messages that they wish they could give GO GEORGE a million likes,” says Trevor Botha, George Municipal Manager, after the eventful week. “We are completely overwhelmed by the support and goodwill shown by the George community and of course our bus drivers are being hailed as heroes, which we fully endorse. They were courageous in securing the safety of their passengers. We salute them, every one of them, and are doing everything in our power, with the cooperation of all the law enforcement agencies in the city, to ensure their safety and that of our passengers.”
According to James Robb, GO GEORGE Manager, bus personnel have been through several counselling sessions at Famsa to debrief them after the traumatic experience.
One of the campaigns which started spontaneously the minute the buses took to the streets again, was the “hoot to salute” when driving past a GO GEORGE bus. Motorists wave at the drivers and always get a friendly hoot in return, and some even stop to spoil drivers with some treats and cold drinks, or spontaneous hugs.
“A heartwarming and unifying spirit seems to have replaced the fear that was almost tangible last week,” says George Executive Mayor, Alderman Charles Standers, “and we are extremely grateful for the George community’s positive response despite the inconvenience in their personal and business lives.”
“People joke that they will never again complain about driving behind a GO GEORGE bus, and others try to mobilise vehicle owners to take the bus to work or for a family outing to the mall in solidarity,” says Robb. “Residents with vehicles stood in and started offering lifts to and from work to stranded passengers as soon as the news of the violence and suspension of bus services started spreading on Wednesday, and still do.
“They would literally park along the routes with posters against their windscreens, offering lifts to certain areas. Some big businesses supplied vehicles to fetch their staff for work and take them back home again.
“But still, there were thousands of our regular passengers, including children and old people, who had to walk home, or to work and to school in cold, wet weather, in the dark. It hurt us personally to witness the impact on our passengers.”
GO GEORGE is supporting the campaigns for blue ribbons, flying blue flags and GO GEORGE bumper stickers that have been proposed by supporters on Facebook, and invites the public to watch their Facebook page for details. “We appreciate all the creativity and initiative, but people must please remember that anything with the GO GEORGE logo on it has to be done by us, so please make contact with the team if you have a suggestion.”
On Friday, certain routes were operational again by 14:00 with people clapping and cheering along the streets as the buses took to the streets. Three more routes were added on Monday morning.
“We are doing our utmost best to offer full services again as soon as possible, without compromising our staff or passengers’ safety, and with the buses to our disposal. We have lost six buses from the fleet, and quoting Minister of Transport and Public Works, Donald Grant, they can unfortunately not be bought from the supermarket shelf,” says Robb.
For the latest on route recommencements or for general enquiries, phone the GO GEORGE call centre on 0800 044 044, or visit theGO GEORGE Facebook page.