Impounded taxis at Old Drive-in site.Picture Zanele Zulu.21/09/2015

Durban - Commuters in Durban were stranded Monday night and again on Tuesday morning as taxi operators stopped the operation of public transport, following the impoundment at the weekend of about 300 minibus taxis, city buses, private buses, and metered taxis, which were without legal route permits.

Sifiso Mthethwa, the chairman of the Greater Northern Region Taxi Association, said there would be no public transport until the unlicensed minibus taxis were released “without payment of contravening permit laws”.

Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi said 163 minibus taxis, 120 metered taxis, 18 Durban Transport municipal buses and four private buses were impounded and held at the old Durban drive-in site.

The operation came after the recent shooting at Durban’s Brook Street taxi rank, attributed to conflicts over taxi routes, where three people lost their lives.

”We want to ensure compliance with route permits, from which more than 80% of the conflict emanates,” said Msomi. Municipal spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said in previous meetings with the city, taxi operators had indicated that if there were conflicts and violence among taxi operators, they expected metro police to enforce the law.

“The city will continue to enforce the rule of law without fear or favour,” she said.

KZN Taxi Alliance spokesman Bafana Mhlongo admitted that many taxis had no permits and said the application process was faulty.

“We have been asking eThekwini to open an office in the city where we can go to apply for permits. There is only one office in the province, in Pietermaritzburg, and it takes years before the permit is issued,” he said. “Violent protests erupt from anger at not being listened to.”

KZN Transport spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said those who claimed the permit application system was faulty were making “a lame excuse”.

He said the department had dozens of permits from the eThekwini region which had not been collected.

“The real problem is their behaviour of recruiting people every day, when they know that they have not followed the correct processes. They are not going to be given ranking stands by the municipality and as a result cannot get a permit from the department.

“When the municipality says there is no stand, the department cannot issue a permit. They continue recruiting people, knowing very well that there are compliance issues.

“Now they have an oversupply of taxis, their routes are overpopulated and they are not making profits, and now they make it our problem.”

The Mercury