Durban - The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday called on police minister Fikile Mbalula to urgently intervene in ongoing taxi violence in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, saying that the latest spate of unrest was a direct consequence of the provincial transport MEC's decision to ban all taxis in the area.
This comes after five buses were torched at a depot in Ladysmith on Sunday night by unknown suspects. The buses were part of a service introduced to fill the void after KZN MEC for Transport Mxolisi Kaunda suspended taxi operators late last year in a bid to quell the dispute between the warring associations.
The provincial department of transport estimates that the Klipriver and Sizwe Taxi Associations in Ladysmith feud has claimed 61 lives since 2014 after years of the two associations being embroiled in conflict.
Alf Lees, the DA's Uthukela constituency head, said that despite a month having passed since he wrote to Mbalula requesting details of the action that the police were taking in the Alfred Duma Municipality to arrest suspects linked to the violence and murders, he has not had an acknowledgement of receipt.
"Even if Mbalula has been on holiday in Dubai the situation is so serious that he should have given the matter his full attention. The DA once again calls on Minister Mbalula to comply with his constitutional obligations and to urgently intervene," Lees said.
Lees said that he had warned in December that the unilateral banning of all local mini-bus taxis was not the answer to the violence and murders associated with some taxi operators.
"This action has brought hardship on all the commuters into Ladysmith and the Alfred Duma Municipality in general. This hardship has been made worse by the negative impact on the economy of the area and the consequent impact on the poor," Lees said.
"The timing of the blockade has clearly been planned to coincide with the gearing up of businesses after the holiday period as well as with the opening of schools for the 2018 year."
Lees said that reports were that business in Ladysmith was 35 percent lower during the period since the taxi ban was implemented.
"The high-handed step to ban all taxis associated with the two taxi associations in Alfred Duma taken by MEC Kaunda has now backfired as we warned that it inevitably would do," Lees said.
"A blanket ban on the hundreds of taxi operators and drivers who are associated with the two taxi associations is a clearly unwarranted punishment of innocent operators and drivers who have had absolutely no participation in any violence at all."
African News Agency/ANA