Roads are associated with being the arteries of a city because they serve as avenues which people move in urban spaces writes Alan Watson. File photo: Henk Kruger / African News Agency

PORT ELIZABETH - Eastern Cape Transport, Safety and Liaison MEC (member of executive council), Weziwe Tikana on Friday announced the relaxation of the taxi route closures in the O.R. Tambo District to allow for the transportation of learners as schools are set to open next week.

“This decision is specifically taken to allow for the transportation of learners to school and all other operations are still suspended,” said Tikana. 

Last week, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, and MEC Tikana announced a decision to close the routes and ranks affected by taxi violence in the area. 

“We regret the inconvenience experienced by commuters, however government’s decision has been taken to bring about lasting peace and stability in the taxi industry,” said Tikana. 

A notice was published in the government gazette in terms of Section 91 of the National Land Transport Act (2009) to close all taxi ranks and suspend taxi operations around Mthatha, Ngqeleni and Ntlaza within the King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality.

The closures affected the rival associations - Border Alliance Taxi Association and Uncedo Services Taxi Association - in Port St Johns, Ugie/Maclear and Tsolo. 

“This is an extraordinary measure we had to take to protect lives of both operators and commuters,” she said.

The gazette further called for the removal of taxi association stickers across the Eastern Cape. These will be replaced by an Eastern Cape sticker within the next two weeks. 

The Department has since the closure of the routes been working tirelessly to secure alternative transport for commuters, with little success thus far. 

“The situation in the area has been so violent such that no operator has been willing to come and provide assistance on behalf of government despite us assuring them in terms of security measures in place,” said Tikana. 

According to the department, since the closure of the route there has not been one attack on any member of the taxi industry. 

The department said a special task team will continue its operations in the area until the routes are officially reopened again, while the provision of transport for school learners would be closely monitored. 

Law enforcement officers on Thursday impounded 36 minibus taxis and 15 operating permits were confiscated from those operating illegally on these routes. 

Provincial traffic spokesman Charles Bramwell said eight operators paid a R4,000 prescribed fine to have their vehicles released.

African News Agency/ANA