Parents plead with warring taxi factions to allow scholar transport
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Cape Town - Parents have pleaded with two taxi organisations, blamed for a deadly war, to allow scholar transport into Cape Town’s townships, as some schools return to a full-time schedule.
Since the reopening on July 26, some scholar transport drivers did not operate, while some operated in fear, as they returned to transporting pupils to and from schools amid taxi violence – which entered the fourth week in the Western Cape.
Concerned parents marched to Khayelitsha, Nyanga and Gugulethu taxi ranks – operated by Cata and Codeta – to plead with the operators to at least allow scholar transport to operate peacefully.
Speaking at the Nyanga Terminus, one of the parents Zanele Oliphant, whose two children attend a school in Athlone, pleaded with the operators to safeguard their scholar transport and to allow them to operate freely.
"Since the schools reopened last week, our children never went to school because their drivers feared for their lives and for our children too," said Oliphant.
She said they did not want to enter the fights between the associations, but they would like to see their children going to schools.
One of the taxi owners, and Kiki Murray Taxi Association deputy chairperson Zuko Nqweshi said parents should report anyone threatening their children to the taxi rank or the police, because there were criminal elements taking over.
Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell said he received calls from members of the public, who were concerned that they could not get to work or to school due to taxis not operating on routes, because the loading lane had been closed, in terms of the Section 91 notice in terms of the National Land Transport Act issued.
“I want to say that I share their anger and frustration. This taxi strike is having a devastating impact on our most vulnerable communities,” said Mitchell.
He said they were doing everything they could with the powers they have, as a provincial government, to solve the problem in a sustainable way.
“I do want to clarify, however, that even though “affected” associations/ members may not use the Bellville and Mbekweni taxi ranks and certain loading lanes, they may still continue to provide services on the routes authorised by their operating licences,” he said.
He said legal operators of affected associations may still load and set down passengers along the route, but would not be allowed to use the closed ranks and lanes.
He said the continued lack of services in some areas was due to a decision by the two main associations to not operate, and government could not force the associations to operate.
More than 890 schools across the province would not be able to resume full-time classes, as they did not meet the physical distance requirements for pupils and staff.
About 894 applications received by the department, representing 88.5% of the 1 010 primary schools, have been approved by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), and the remaining 11.5% would be operating at full capacity, as they had the ability to comply with all the health and safety regulations – including the one-metre physical distancing rule.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said more than 30 of 72 special needs schools would also return to 100% operating capacity.
Progressive Principals' Association spokesperson Anthea Adriaanse said most schools applied to continue with the rotational timetabling, as they could not accommodate all pupils at school while maintaining the one-metre physical distancing.
Hammond said the return of all primary and special needs school pupils was, however, based on the implementation of a risk adjusted differentiated strategy, and various health and safety protocols, including one-metre physical distancing measures.
"A risk adjusted differentiated strategy means an approach to school attendance that is determined by the direction the pandemic is taking in any particular district municipality, province, and the country," she said.
Educators Union of SA provincial chairperson André de Bruyn said the union was in shock after hearing that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) made contact with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to have the one-metre distance rule scrapped as part of their Covid-19 protocols.