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Kimberley - Attempts to avert a blood bath in a turf war between the Thusano Taxi Association (TTA) and Greenpoint Taxi Association (GTA) failed when the two groups clashed over the weekend.
Violence erupted at the Craven Street taxi rank and in the Diamond Pavilion Mall’s parking lot on Saturday, as taxi drivers threw stones and threatened each other with guns, pangas and knives.
Tyres were also set alight inside the taxi rank on Friday.
A number of taxi drivers, including a 16-year-old minor, were forced into the back of police vans as the violence erupted.
The police in Kimberley are investigating several cases of intimidation as well as one case of attempted murder following the incidents.
Tensions simmered as drivers scrambled for commuters to make use of their taxis with some of them blockading roads.
The Thusano Taxi Association was recently granted a permit to collect passengers from the Craven Street taxi rank while the Greenpoint Taxi Association has gone to court to prevent them from encroaching on their territory.
Greenpoint Taxi Association driver Godfrey Mothibi said that his vehicle’s tyres were slashed while another GTA driver accused Thusano drivers of chasing them with knives.
“Commuters were pulled out of our vehicles and their lives were at risk.”
The clashes caused several delays as passengers, who were late for work, were too frightened to climb into the taxis.
The TTA, in turn, accused the GTA of threatening them if they dared to pick up their passengers.
TTA drivers also claimed that they were shot at by GTA taxi drivers and that they were threatened with knives and stones.
“If we retaliate, there will be blood. Our patience is wearing thin,” one of the drivers said.
Police spokesman, Lieutenant Donald Mdluli, yesterday said that 15 complaints of intimidation were lodged by members of the taxi industry.
“One complainant was sitting in a taxi when he apparently heard some gun shots. He later opened a case of attempted murder, although he was not injured.”
Mdluli indicated that no arrests were made.
“The police are monitoring the volatile areas and are keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Chairman of the Greenpoint Taxi Association, Louis Uithaler, claimed that Thusano taxi drivers were stealing their livelihoods as they were left with no commuters and no income.
“Our passengers are being illegally loaded. The permits are fraudulent because there is supposed to be a moratorium on the issuing of permits.”
He stated that Thusano had ignored commitments made on Friday to suspend operations at the Craven Street taxi rank.
“Passengers are being picked up in the street and at the mall although they do not have permits. We called in the Public Transport Inspectorate and the police to intervene when our drivers were chased with pangas and knives.”
Uithaler pointed out that their drivers were instead arrested, when the Thusano Taxi Association drivers fled the scene.
He added that a meeting that was supposed to be held on Thursday last week with the MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison Patrick Mabilo to resolve the hostility, did not take place.
GTA drivers last week threatened to disrupt the launch of the Arrive Alive campaign by national minister, Ben Martins, at the Galeshewe Stadium.
Mabilo arranged an emergency meeting with the two associations, shortly before he was supposed to leave for the event at the stadium.
He advised the two associations to set aside their emotions, as members of the public and businesses depended on public transport to put “bread and butter on the table”.
Mabilo explained that procrastinations in providing feedback to GTA was due to the court order.
The meeting was attended by the top management of the SAPS, including the acting Provincial Commissioner, Major General Hilda Mohajane, Deputy Provincial Commissioner for Crime Detection in the Northern Cape, Major General Jean Abrahams, Sol Plaatje traffic officials and a legal consultant from the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison.
The Thusano Taxi Association’s chairman, Xolisile Qalinga, said they later agreed to withdraw their vehicles from the Craven Street taxi rank until all legal matters had been finalised.
He maintained that they had followed all necessary procedures after they were issued with permits and had bought new vehicles.
“The TTA is the biggest taxi association (in Kimberley) while there are only about 16 GTA drivers. We will never resort to violence and will abide by the law.”
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