ANC government has answers to taxi violence but there’s no political will to solve it
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Seven months after the killings started, taxi operators in Cape Town have apologised to the public as a truce was struck on Monday.
Since February, more than 80 people have been killed, including 20 people last month, in a violent war between members of the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta).
The taxi organisations were fighting for control of a lucrative route, between Bellville and Mbekweni in Paarl. Initially, the violence was restricted to the Bellville taxi rank, but soon it spread to other areas of Cape Town, causing chaos for users of public transport, particularly in Khayelitsha and Nyanga.
The two taxi bodies only got serious about a brokered peace deal after the forced closure of taxi ranks in Paarl and Bellville, by the Western Cape government.
With Monday’s deal, Western Cape Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell can breathe a sigh of relief and his national counterpart, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, can go back to tweeting more regularly. But the problems of public transport in South Africa, not just the taxi industry, will persist – despite the promises of the participants and government’s threat of “consequences”.
While the taxi industry is worth billions of rand and holds significant economic sway (being the largest mode of public transport in South Africa), operators have baulked at more formal ways of participating in the economy.
Instead, violence and the threat of violence have been used as bargaining tools, against a government that has been unwilling, and unable, to enforce the rule of law – as recently witnessed during the chaos in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. The taxi industry has also been aided by our sprawling metropolitan areas, which perpetuate spatial apartheid, in which job opportunities and good schools are located far from new human settlements.
The ANC government knows all the answers to these problems but, despite numerous promises, there has been a serious lack of political will to exercise the sort of political oversight that will bring about meaningful change, and not just short-term victories like the one on Monday.