KZN Transport MEC, Mxolisi Kaunda, speaks during a meeting with taxi operators in Ladysmith on Monday Picture: Supplied/KZN Department of Transport

Johannesburg - The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday criticised the KwaZulu-Natal Member of Executive Council (MEC) for Transport, Mxolisi Kaunda, for banning taxis from entering Ladysmith, saying that it was an irresponsible decision that endangered the lives of residents.

Last month, Kaunda suspended taxi operations of Klipriver and Sizwe Taxi associations following incidents of violence that had led to killings of taxi operators, their family members and relatives as well as innocent by-standers.

The provincial department of transport estimates that the Klipriver and Sizwe Taxi Associations in Ladysmith feud has claimed at least 61 lives since 2014.

But on Monday, Kaunda announced that he had decided to partially reopen local taxi routes, bar for long distance taxi routes, in Ladysmith after community members barricaded roads with burning tyres during a protest, demanding taxis and later burnt five buses at a local depot.

DA spokesperson on health in KZN, Dr Imran Keeka, said that Kaunda's decision to ban taxis from entering Ladysmith had not only affected business and services, but had also affecting residents in need of health care and could potentially cost lives.

"The DA has therefore written to the Premier Willies Mchunu and Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo requesting that they work together with their cabinet colleague, transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda to urgently prioritise the healthcare needs of residents of the Alfred Duma Municipality in resolving this disaster of their own making," Keeka said.

"Road closures by massive rocks have hampered the movement of ambulances and staff to and from hospitals and clinics. This has the potential to leave wards in the Ladysmith Hospital without nurses. This situation will worsen at the end of each shift that will see massive absenteeism as a result of the blockade."

Keeka said that Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo must urgently restore healthcare services by ensuring that emergency services are provided with armed escorts when responding in volatile areas and ensure that an urgent arrangement is made to manage staff movements at the Ladysmith Hospital.

African News Agency/ANA