Minibus taxis are seen at Bara, the biggest taxi rank in Soweto. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport on Tuesday announced the closure of disputed taxi ranks and routes in Soweto following months of intimidation and violence. 

This comes after Transport MEC Ismail Vadi published Regulations in the Provincial Gazette invoking the extraordinary measures in declared areas to close ranks and related routes operated by the Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association (Nanduwe) and Witwatersrand Taxi Association (Wata) in Soweto.

The affected ranks and routes include Mofolo Kwa-Mthethwa informal taxi rank, Makhetha stores informal taxi rank; Dube Station taxi rank, Makhetha garage taxi rank in Phefeni, and Uncle Tom’s taxi rank.

Vadi said the month-long extraordinary measure will take effect from Thursday this week until 13 August. He said this measure was supported by the City of Johannesburg and law-enforcement agencies in the province.

He said as recently as Monday, heavily armed men allegedly linked to both the Wata and Nanduwe associations, had a confrontation in the affected area in the presence of police.  

"We have concrete and credible evidence that the violence, unrest and instability are of such high level to justify extraordinary measures," Vadi said.

"To date, law enforcement agencies are investigating at least 13 cases of murder, attempted murder, assault, damage to property and intimidation involving over 30 suspects and victims. These criminal acts have adversely affected innocent members of the public, commuters, taxi drivers and operators."

Nanduwe and rivals Wata have been at loggerheads for over a year. At times the conflict has become violent, resulting in the loss of lives and interruption of commuter services. 

Vadi called on the leadership and membership of the two associations to play their part in maintaining order and safety, also saying that if any of them attempted to operate in the prohibited routes during the embargo they would be guilty of an offence and would get a hefty fine. 

"We recognise that the closure of the said ranks and routes will inconvenience commuters and the community at large. Commuters are advised to use alternative public transport in Soweto such as rail, busses and Rea Vaya services," Vadi said.

"We must indicate that any person who contravenes the published regulations and operates a minibus taxi service at the said ranks and routes is guilty of an offence. Where a person is convicted of contravening the regulation, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding R25,000 may be imposed."