File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

Durban - Tensions ran high in oThongathi (Tongaat) on Wednesday after taxi operators intimidated motorists suspected of running lift clubs.

Traffic came to a standstill on Wednesday morning for about 45 minutes as taxis blockaded entrances to the North Coast town. This was after the arrest of a man who had allegedly intimidated a motorist who had been taking relatives to work.

oThongathi police spokeswoman, Warrant Officer Manisha Maharaj-Marie, said a woman was pulled off the road by a taxi operator who suspected her of being a lift club operator.

“The woman was pulled off and instructed to drive back home, but instead she drove to the police station. She got here around 7am. She was shaken by the ordeal. A case of intimidation was opened and one man was arrested,” said Maharaj-Marie.

After the arrest, taxi operators blockaded the town. The situation was volatile, but the police were in control, said Maharaj-Marie.

“Last year there was an issue between taxi and lift club operators, with the former arguing the latter were operating illegally as they had no permits to do so.

“On Monday we received reports lift club operators were intimidated, and this morning we had this scene. It was really ugly but fortunately there was no violence, although tensions were high. Metro transport arrived and after talks with other motorists, including the taxi operators, the situation was calmed,” she said.

The Daily News reported in December that Chatsworth taxi operators had been intimidating school transporters and lift clubs. They issued operators with letters warning them not to transport people from January and angry residents convened a meeting where a committee was formed to challenge the attack on lift clubs.

The committee met the area taxi association to discuss their position on school transporters and lift clubs.

Transport Department spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said lift clubs could not be regulated because individuals formed agreements among themselves. But he warned those who used cars not designed for that purpose to stop.

Nico Mkhize, deputy chairman of the Tongaat Taxi Association, said they had no issue with people transporting pupils to school, but with those who operated lift clubs.

“Our gripe is with those who transport workers to their workplaces. We commend the transport department because the number of such people has decreased by about 80%. What triggered this morning’s incident is the arrest of our security guard by the police when we stopped cars to talk to drivers about the unlawfulness of what they were doing,” Mkhize said.

Provincial police spokesman, Major Thulani Zwane, said taxi operators wanted lift club operators to get permits.

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Daily News