Durban -

The eThekwini Municipality is to spend about R33 million upgrading five city taxi ranks and one near KwaMashu to make them safer and longer lasting, but has warned of the possibility of months of traffic congestion and inconvenience.

Construction work is scheduled to start this month and end in November.

“This will affect the normal movements of commuters and the general public as temporary rank relocations would be necessary. We apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused to the public during the construction phase,” said the municipality’s communications head, Tozi Mthethwa.

Roof structures of most of the existing taxi ranks were in need of urgent repairs to make them safe.

The six ranks are:

* Soldiers Way, at Soldiers Way and Joe Slovo (Field) Street.

* Old Dutch, at the corner of King Dinuzulu (Berea) Road South and Julius Nyerere (Warwick) Avenue.

* Cartwright’s Flats, at Joe Slovo and Ingcuce (Albert) streets.

* Centenary Road, at ML Sultan and Market roads.

* Anton Lembede, at Anton Lembede (Smith) Street and Williams Road.

* Besters, which is on the R102 near the Bridge City town centre near KwaMashu.

“During the upgrading phase, the eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) will provide temporary infrastructure to be used by commuters which includes portable toilets and trading areas for people who are currently trading within the affected taxi ranks,” said Mthethwa.

Meanwhile, taxis will continue parking in Mathews Meyiwa Road (First Avenue) while the municipality works on a holding area, which it hopes will be ready by the end of next week.

The ETA, metro police and the Durban Long Distance Taxi Association agreed to this at a meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting was called after the association’s drivers and taxi owners blockaded the road with burning tyres and threw objects at police, who had impounded six taxis that were parked illegally, late last week.

Police had also found drivers sleeping in their taxis.

Last month they were also ordered to stop parking on the vacant Block AK land nearby.

ETA head, Erik Moller, said the holding area, in Dalton Road, would be ready by the end of next week.

“Between that time and now further discussions would be held between the association and municipality,” he said.

However, taxi drivers and owners have complained that the holding area is too far from where they operate, Durban Station.

Moller said the city was not obliged to provide holding areas for taxis and the land in Dalton Road was the only land available.

“There is no other alternative,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance chairman, Bafana Mhlongo, confirmed that it was agreed at Wednesday’s meeting that the taxis could continue to park in Mathews Meyiwa Road.

None of them would be impounded, provided they were parked properly and were not washed on the side of the road.

Metro police spokesman, Eugene Msomi, said police would continue to enforce the law. “If taxis are parked appropriately they will not be impounded, but if they are parked on the pavement then police will enforce the law. No agreement can be made that allows for the law to be broken.”