Durban — A ward councillor in Umhlanga Rocks said residents were rattled by the blockade staged by taxi operators on Tuesday, up to the point that they were “considering their options”.
This follows after Tuesday’s incident where routes in and out of the uMhlanga CBD were blocked for several hours as taxi operators demanded that the municipality find a solution to the lack of a designated taxi rank in the area.
Councillor Nicole Bollman said: “With the 2021 riots fresh in everyone's minds, Tuesday’s situation in uMhlanga has again represented the tinderbox eThekwini currently finds itself in due to the city’s obvious ploy to divide and conquer.”
She said uMhlanga was a multifaceted community with a number of stakeholders, including residents, business owners, hotels, restaurants, tourists, and investors.
“On Tuesday the inconvenience included the inability to access Umhlanga Rocks and businesses were affected, with some fearing for the worst. Today's meeting unfortunately excludes the mayor but it's a follow-up meeting to discuss a possible way forward,” she said.
Bollman, who was in a meeting called by the eThekwini municipality’s officials where they were meeting members of the local taxi industry, said the taxi issue was not the only problem the area was experiencing, with very little response from the city.
Sifiso Shangase of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) said their frustrations were the concrete barricades that were erected near the Oceans Mall.
“This has been long overdue because the developer of this R4-billion Oceans Umhlanga Mall promised us that they were still planning to accommodate the taxis in one of the underground floors. We were amazed to be met with barricades now preventing us from operating as normal,” said Shangase.
He condemned the Town Planning Department for not taking this into consideration when they were developing this mall.
“If you build a big mall like this, you must take it into your mind that there would be an influx of shoppers who don’t all have cars to get to the establishment. Even the workers of the different stores at Oceans Mall do not have cars to commute from and back to their homes,” said Shangase.
The barricades were removed on Tuesday afternoon and temporary space was allocated to taxis.
eThekwini Municipality’s spokesperson, Gugu Sisilana, said they had since identified a new holding area or a temporary rank for minibus taxis and buses in an unused parking lot at the complex.
“The leadership of the City has called on the taxi industry to take their concerns through the proper channels so they can be addressed amicably as we continue to engage with them on common issues," she said.
About Wednesday’s meeting, she said: “This meeting is to find long-lasting solutions to address issues related to the lack of a designated public transport space for taxis near the Oceans Mall. This follows an illegal protest that occurred on Tuesday, September 19, when approximately 40 taxis from different parts of the northern region blocked off the M4 Ruth First Highway and Lighthouse Road in uMhlanga. This led to hours of congestion and frustration for motorists. The affected taxi associations complained about inadequate holding space for taxis and that the temporary space they had been allowed to use had been recently shut down by the mall’s management without any consultations. Members of the Metro Police and other law enforcement agencies were on scene and attended to the illegal blockading of roads, which the City strongly condemns.”
Speaking to the Daily News, the chief operating officer of Oceans Umhlanga, Brian Mpono, said an interim taxi rank had been opened which can only accommodate 50 taxis.
“In order to have the taxi blockade stopped in the interest of greater uMhlanga businesses, Oceans Umhlanga has provided and negotiated, at its own initiative, a temporary solution which has been accepted by the representatives of the taxi association. The responsibility for public transport in uMhlanga lies with the eThekwini Municipality, not the private developers.”
“Furthermore, an interim taxi facility is now open, but it can only accommodate about 50 taxis, but there are about 90 taxis. Additionally, there are major road works in progress around the lower uMhlanga precinct, for safety reasons, and barriers have been erected to prevent taxis from entering the area. We hope that the municipality and the taxi association can reach an agreement for a permanent solution during their meeting,” he said.
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