Routes, ranks closed for two months in an attempt to end deadly Cape taxi violence
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Cape Town - Several minibus taxi ranks will be closed for two months from today, in an effort to bring stability and peace between two taxi associations.
The closure would include the B97 route between Bellville and Mbekweni (Paarl), two taxi ranks in Mbekweni, certain local route loading lanes at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange (PTI), the long-distance facility at the Bellville PTI, the “Paint City” rank in Bellville, and an informal rank in Bellville.
Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell said extra Golden Arrow bus trips have been scheduled between Bellville and Paarl for the period of the closure.
Mitchell said commuters would also be able to use existing Metrorail train services between Bellville and Paarl.
“I took this extraordinary step to stop violence between rival taxi associations, the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta), that has seen 24 people being killed and another 29 injured, and to deal with significant disruptions to public transport in the Metro South-East region,” said Mitchell.
He said concerted multi-stakeholder attempts to resolve the conflict have been unsuccessful.
He said the Paarl Alliance Taxi Association (Pata), which is affiliated to Codeta, and Cata Boland both claimed the right to run the B97 route.
“The Department of Transport and Public Works has put a significant amount of time, money and personnel into trying to resolve the conflict with the participation of Cata, Codeta, SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) Western Cape, the City and the police, but these have not succeeded,” said Mitchell.
For almost two weeks, Mitchell, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Premier Alan Winde, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz and the police held marathon meetings in an effort to quell the violence. Meanwhile, commuters suffered, as no minibus taxis operated.
SA National Civic Organisation provincial spokesperson Akhona Jonginamba accepted the closure of the route, saying the route was the cause of the violence.
Jonginamba called on the provincial government to put measures in place to make sure commuters on that route were not left stranded.
“We are still of the view that a permanent solution is urgently needed. This can be achieved through the full implementation of the November 7, 2006 Western Cape Taxi Violence Commission recommendations,” said Jonginamba.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said most of their critical train operations and station management employees were able to return to duty, resulting in the severely affected northern trains being reinstated.
Scott said the recovery of the northern service came at an opportune time, as the region was able to support the provincial public transport plan to accommodate additional commuter demand following the closure of taxi ranks in Bellville.
Santaco provincial spokesperson Gershon Geyer said they supported Mitchell’s decision for the sake of commuters’ safety.
However, Geyer said it was not the outcome they were hoping for, but the safety of commuters was priority.
“At our last engagement, Cata and Codeta were both in agreement that the route between Paarl and Bellville be closed down until the outcome of the arbitration process. We hope this decision will bring stability to the industry,” he said.
Cata general secretary Mandla Hermanus said they were disappointed that it had to come to a point where a route had to be closed by the government.
“It means we, as the taxi industry, have failed the people who rely on our services for their daily commute,” said Hermanus.
He said they were committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the impasse. “We are continuing to engage each other with the hope of reaching a compromise that will allow us to resume with the operations.”
Codeta spokesperson Andile Khanyi said the minister knew who was wrong and who was right, but he did not want to punish them and protect those who were right.
“The reason for not wanting to do so is that he knows the shed blood was on his hands, because it is them who allowed two associations to operate on one route,” he said.