Forensic investigators inspecting the crime scene at the corner of Madiba and Sisulu streets where a fight broke out between Mamilodi and Menlyn taxi drivers leaving five of drivers wounded. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - Two rival taxi associations in Pretoria have apologised to the public and expressed regret for their altercation which caused a major disruption in the city centre on Thursday. Peace has been restored between drivers of the Menlyn Taxi Association and Mamelodi Amalgamated Taxi Association (Mata).

Both sides are seeking forgiveness from their passengers and others affected by the violence which left five drivers injured. People heading for work on Thursday morning were shocked when guns were drawn in the heart of the capital’s city centre - especially at a time when thousands of visitors are in town for the World Choir Games and local singers were hosted by Mayor Solly Msimanga at Tshwane House.

Swift intervention by taxi industry leaders and Roads and Transport MMC Sheila-Lynn Senkubuge saw the associations send committee members to the corner of Sisulu and Madiba streets near Tshwane House to call their drivers to order on Thursday and monitor the situation yesterday.

The associations told the Pretoria News their taxi operators were urged not to get emotional and to avoid a repeat of the violent altercation over routes. Tshwane taxi industry heavyweights Piet Mahlangu of the Taxi Operations Peace Initiative Conglomerated Association (Topica) and Abner Tsebe of the Greater Tshwane Regional Taxi Council (GTRTC) convened an emergency meeting on Thursday.

Secretary of the Menlyn association Morara Mathebe said: “We want to say that we are very sorry to all our passengers and we do so without reservation. “We are peaceful associations what happened on Thursday surprised us all. However, we take the blame and ask that our passengers forgive us."

Mata secretary Bonny Ndjishe said: “Our passengers are the heart of our business we are nothing without them. “What happened is regrettable and should never happen again." They were engaging with their operators to teach them to be rational even at times of dispute, and to take up grievances with their associations “rather than do something they regret later”.

The intersection is at the heart of the dispute as it is shared by drivers from the two associations to drop off passengers from Mamelodi and Menlyn and it is where they wait to be picked up. However, MMC Senkubuge said neither association had a certificate for the sole right use the intersection. There was now a process under way to find a solution.

Ndjishe said: “The two associations have certificates to use the routes as they transport people to Mamelodi and Menlyn respectively but, because they have both dropped off passengers at that corner over the years, it created a culture among passengers to return to get a ride back home from that corner."

He said classic cases of route disputes started when a shopping mall was built near a road that was used by drivers from different associations. Drivers and associations would claim the potential passengers, he said.

“However, here in Tshwane, especially with the help of influential figures like Mahlangu and Tsebe, we have managed to negotiate many disputes peacefully. That’s why we say we were surprised by Thursday’s incident.” Senkubuge said the taxi industry leadership apologised for the incident and committed to work with the City to resolve their differences.

They condemned the incident and urged their members to conduct themselves in a manner that promoted peace, law and order. She said the City planned to continue to enforce the law without fear or favour and their members should be subjected to the full might of the law should they be found to be acting criminally. “I wish to reiterate disappointment with what transpired yesterday (Thursday) morning.”

Police spokesperson Noxolo Kweza said the police had not arrested any suspects for the shooting.

Pretoria News