Violence shuts down taxi ranks in Soweto
Johannesburg - Soweto commuters are in for a torrid time for the next few weeks following the shutdown of five taxi ranks and routes.
Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi and Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane on Tuesday said the province would close minibus taxi ranks and related routes linked to the Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association (Nanduwe) and the Witwatersrand Taxi Association (Wata) from Thursday.
Vadi said that from Thusrday to August 13, Mofolo Kwa-Mthethwa informal taxi rank, Makhetha Stores informal taxi rank, Dube station taxi rank, Makhetha Garage (Phefeni) taxi rank and Uncle Tom’s taxi rank would be temporarily closed.
Gauteng has been forced to make the unpopular decision following recent reports of deadly shootouts over routes.
Vadi said the measure was supported by the City of Joburg and law enforcement agencies in the province.
“The provisions of section 91 of the National Land Transport Act 5 of 2009 set out the basis on which particular ranks and routes in an area may be closed by the MEC responsible for public transport. Circumstances warranting such extraordinary measures include violence, unrest or instability in any sector of the public transport industry in a declared area or between operators in an area, the safety of passengers using the relevant services, or where the situation has deteriorated to an unacceptable level that closure of ranks and/or routes is required to normalise the situation.
“We have concrete and credible evidence that the violence, unrest and instability are of such a high level to justify extraordinary measures,” said Vadi.
He added that on Monday, heavily armed men allegedly linked to both Wata and Nanduwe had a confrontation in the affected area in the presence of law enforcement officers.
“There have been instances of unlawful road blockades in the Joburg CBD, leading to severe disruption of traffic and economic activities,” he said.
Vadi also highlighted the recent action by members of Nanduwe supported by heavily armed security guards, who unlawfully and illegally blockaded several streets in the city on Friday.
“It is in the public interest that we act now. As executive authorities for public transport and community safety, we are responsible for the safety of commuters and the public at large,” Vadi said.
He urged the leadership and membership of taxi associations to publicly disassociate themselves from criminal and unlawful acts that showed wanton disregard for the safety and lives of innocent people.
Nkosi-Malobane said law enforcement met on Tuesday to make sure that operators abide with the decision.
“We are confident that our teams will be on the ground by 12.30am on Thursday to make sure that no members from Wata or Nanduwe operate in the five areas,” the MEC said.
She added that the department would be engaging with commuters at the White City taxi rank today to inform them about the changes.
“It is better to walk than to be killed, we have already lost some of the innocent members of the community in these fights between Wata and Nanduwe,” she said.
Nkosi-Malobane added that some of these taxi operators use automatic rifles in a public space, and it was about time that they were taught a lesson.
She said the department recognised that the closure of the said ranks and routes would inconvenience commuters and the community at large.
Commuters are advised to use alternative public transport in Soweto such as rail, buses and Rea Vaya services.
The department also indicated that any person who contravenes the published regulations and operates a minibus taxi service at the said ranks and routes would be guilty of an offence.
“Where a person is convicted of contravening the regulation, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding R25000 may be imposed,” the MEC said.