STUCK: Built in 2012, the Bophelong taxi rank in Emfuleni municipality has yet to be used by the community.Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

A taxi rank built in Bophelong, Vanderbijlpark, at a cost of R31 million is a white elephant because minibus taxis cannot fit under it.

Now taxi drivers are refusing to operate from the structure, saying their vehicles could be damaged. The municipalities involved in the project are pointing fingers at each other. Meanwhile, the building is being vandalised, while taxi operators and commuters work from a dusty street corner where there is no shelter or protection.

Last week, during the question-and-answer session in the Gauteng legislature, Transport MEC Ismail Vadi said, in an oral reply to DA member of legislature Kingsol Chabalala, that the project was valued at R31m. Vadi said the facility was expected to accommodate 100 minibus taxis.

“Taxi associations expressed dissatisfaction and did not accept the facility,” Vadi said, adding that Emfuleni municipality took over the facility, which it intended to use it as a trading market for hawkers. He said the facility was vandalised and the municipality would have to repair it before it could be used.

However, Vanderbijlpark Taxi Association spokesperson Tshidiso Mqwathi disagreed with Vadi’s statement, saying the structure was never meant as a taxi rank but was created for traders.

Mqwathi said: “We were involved when this project started but we realised that the shape was not looking like a taxi rank as it grew. There were many more shops than taxi bays. We even tested a Quantum taxi in that structure and it couldn’t fit. We approached the authorities to make changes but nothing happened. We also wanted them to remove the stores but they didn’t. A taxi rank should have shelters and seats for passengers. That is not a taxi rank. ”

Emfuleni spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng said the municipality did not participate in the project and referred questions to Gauteng Roads and Transport and the Sedibeng district municipality. Gauteng Roads and Transport spokesperson Melitah Madiba blamed Sedibeng for the vandalism of the structure, adding that the structure was also for economic activities for local small businesses.

“Unfortunately this was not processed by the Sedibeng district municipality. The facility has been fully transferred to the Sedibeng district municipality, which is fully responsible for the security, maintenance and operational management of the facility,” she said.

Sedibeng district municipality spokesperson Khosi Masie said the intention was to ensure that the community takes ownership of the rank but taxi operators raised concerns about its size when construction work was near completion.

“There were discussions with the complainants on how to resolve their concerns amicably, with the sole intention of ensuring that the taxi rank remains as such and serves the needs of the Bophelong community,” she said.

The Sunday Independent visited the rank this past week and found that there were not enough bays for taxis, the ceilings were in poor condition and water pipes had been removed from the walls.

Commuter Mojalefa Putlane urged the local taxi association and Emfuleni Municipality to sort out their differences.

“Look, now I am waiting for a taxi in the street under the sun. And it’s worse when it rains. Although that taxi rank is bad, I think the community, taxis and municipality need to discuss this and come up with a solution. We really need to use that taxi rank,” Putlane said.

The Sunday Independent