Cape Town - An ostracised taxi operator has slammed the Bellville Taxi Association (Bellta) for claiming that a peace deal had been brokered between Bellta’s executive and rebel members.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he “feared for his life”, the operator said that he and other members were forced on pain of death to “repent”, to accept the status quo and to adhere to Bellta’s rules.
“If we did not, they said that there were 10 hit men already assigned to each of us. ‘They’re just waiting for the order,’ we were told,” the operator added.
There has been infighting in Bellta since 2011, when a group of operators tried to break away from the group amid allegations of corruption, lack of transparency, favouritism, illegal rules and unelected leadership. They breakaway group called themselves the Bellville Taxi Alliance (BTA).
Infighting between Bellta faithful and BTA members, four operators were murdered from June to September. At the time, the provincial legislature said it was aware of a hit list with the names of 17 people. Both sides have accused each other of perpetuating the violence.
Last Monday, the violence flared up again, with shots being fired, BTA operators’ vehicles being pushed off the rank and a senior official at the Provincial Regulating Authority being assaulted.
“There is an illegal rule that each operator is allowed to have a maximum of six taxis operating from the rank. This is benefiting only corrupt Bellta executive members and suffocates bigger operators. But our lives are more important, so we accept this until the rule of law prevails,” the operator said.
In the wake of the violence, Transport MEC Robin Carlisle met police to set up a contingency plan. Police said they had increased their presence at the rank, and on Friday there was a roadblock checking taxi licences and documentation as well as issuing fines.
Carlisle’s department also put a moratorium on transactions between the regulating authority and Bellta, making the renewal of operating licences impossible.
But Mvuyisi Mente, Bellta’s vice-chairman, said the provincial government was “meddling” in a conflict it knew nothing about.
“As a result they are undermining the move towards peace. Only the taxi industry is in a position to clean up its own house. If the government wants to get involved it needs to partner with us and not victimise us in this way,” he said.
Mente said the peace deal remained intact, despite claims to the contrary. He said nominations and elections for new membership might have to be put on hold until the ban on transactions with the authority was lifted.
But the operator said the government and law enforcement should come down on corrupt and illegal operators “like a ton of bricks”.
He suggested that gun control, regulation and a sustained police presence were needed.