Army, cops on high alert for taxi violence after closure of contested route
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Cape Town - The army and a high law enforcement presence is expected along the highly contested minibus taxi route, the B97 road between Bellville and Paarl, as it officially closes on Monday.
Over the past two weeks, about 24 people have been shot dead, 29 others wounded, and thousands of commuters forced to walk for long miles to work, due to the ongoing Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and Cape Taxi Amalgamated Association (Cata) impasse over the route.
Despite Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s interventions, negotiations have failed, resulting in the decision of the B97 closure for two months, starting today.
An arbitration of the dispute is also set to be heard from Monday until July 29.
As schools are expected to open today as well, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer appealed for the violence to stop.
“I make this personal appeal to those instigating the violence: please stop.
“Apart from the damage you are doing to our already fragile economy, you will be preventing pupils, once again, from attending school.
“They have lost out so much over the last year.
“As it is, it will impact their future and that of the economy.
“Any further losses cannot be afforded. They also need to access the school feeding programme, which many rely on,” she said.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the City will continue to support police and maintain a high visibility presence at the Public Transport Interchange (PTI), as well as at hotspot areas and along major routes to help maintain law and order.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel André Traut said their operational endeavours would be communicated in due course.
Mitchell said the closure of routes and ranks was expected to bring stability to the public transport environment in affected areas, and to support the process of achieving lasting peace.
“Extra Golden Arrow bus trips have been scheduled between Bellvillle and Paarl for the period of the closure, and commuters will also be able to use existing Metrorail train services between Bellville and Paarl,” he said.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott said, as the region has recovered from the impact of a recent Covid-19 incident and adjusted level 4, services would resume from Monday.
Rail services were temporarily suspended across the region, due to an unprecedented number of critical operations employees who tested positive for the virus.
“The bulk of critical train operations and station management employees are able to return to duty, resulting in the severely affected northern trains being reinstated.
“The recovery of the northern service, particularly, comes at an opportune time – where the region is able to support the provincial public transport plan to accommodate additional commuter demand, following the closure of taxi ranks in Bellville,” said Scott.
Scott said, on the northern lines, the total number of train trips will increase from 14 to 45, including the Malmesbury and Worcester services.
From Wellington to Kraaifontein, the shuttle service will offer 15 trips and the service between Kraaifontein and Cape Town, through Monte Vista, will operate 26 trips.
By late Sunday night, Cata and Codeta were stuck in talks about finding an interim solution to ensure a safe return to operations by both associations, while waiting for the arbitration process to run its course.
They are hoping that affiliates, who are not affected by the closure of ranks, will be able to resume operations soon.