Durban - Two KwaZulu-Natal taxi associations in the Ladysmith area were suspended yesterday by the province’s transport MEC in order to restore calm to the Emnambithi area, which has seen a number of alleged route-related killings in past months.

MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Mxolisi Kaunda said he had invoked Section 91 of the National Land Transport Act of 2009, “which gives me powers to apply extraordinary measures to restore calm, peace and stability in a conflict-ridden area such as Ladysmith taxi operations”.

The suspension will start today and continue for six months.

“Following incidents of violence related to the taxi industry in this area, which has led to the killings of scores of taxi operators, their family members and relatives, as well as innocent citizens, I have decided to call off operations by both Sizwe Transport and Klipriver taxi associations,” Kaunda said.

The decision had been taken in consultation with the Provincial Executive Council, he said.

Since 2014, there have been high levels of violence and unrest in the area that had claimed the lives of 61 people, particularly on the routes operated by Sizwe Transport and Klipriver Taxi Association.

In 2016, the department held meetings with the Mvelase, Mabaso and Gamede families, who are suspected of being central to the conflict. This culminated in a cleansing ceremony in February.

In October, and despite the interventions, six people were killed in conflict involving the two associations. Kaunda said he and officials tried to mediate between both factions to determine routes, but only Sizwe attended, while Klipriver took the department to court.

The Klipriver Taxi Association also obtained an interim court interdict against Sizwe Transport, which prevents them from operating long distance routes legally registered to Klipriver, but were controlled by Sizwe owing to some historical agreements. These are now in dispute. Despite this, two people were killed after ­another meeting with the MEC and the associations.

- African News Agency