Informal talks held as an interim solution to the ongoing taxi wars in Cape Town
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Western Cape: Warring taxi bodies are holding informal talks in an attempt to find an interim solution to the ongoing conflict, according to one association.
The conflict has left at least 24 people dead, 29 injured and scores of minibus passengers stranded.
At the centre of the conflict is the B97 minibus taxi route between Bellville and Mbekweni, Paarl, which both the Paarl Alliance Taxi Association (Pata), which is affiliated with the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and Cape Taxi Amalgamated Association (Cata) Boland claim rights to run it.
Efforts by Transport MEC Daylin Mitchell, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and other provincial officials to find a solution failed as the parties could not reach an agreement.
On Friday, Mitchell announced that he was closing the contentious route for two months as of Monday.
Two taxi ranks in Mbekweni, certain local route loading lanes at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange (PTI), the long-distance facility at the Bellville PTI, the “Paint City” rank in Bellville, and an informal rank in Bellville were also closed for two months.
A spokesperson for Cata, Mandla Hermanus, said the informal talks were aimed at finding an interim solution to ensure a safe return to operations by both associations while waiting for the arbitration process to run its course.
Hermanus expressed hope that a compromise might be reached this weekend.
“We will only know later today if our affiliates who are not affected by the closure of ranks will be able to resume operations,” Hermanus said.
A taxi operator, who did not want to be identified, said there appeared to be a resolve towards resuming operations on unaffected routes as they were losing money each day.
"Each day, we lose money, and we cannot afford that. We are hopeful that operations will resume by Monday. Already, the fact that the matter has been taken to arbitration doesn't speak well of the ability of the industry to find common ground," the operator said.
The resumption of operations at other minibus taxi routes would be a welcome relief to commuters who depend on an already strained public transport system.
Metrorail suspended operations on the Central Line, the largest and busiest line for the people on the Cape Flats in November 2019, leaving commuters with only the minibus taxis and buses as alternatives.
The City of Cape Town-run MyCiTi N2 Express service between Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and the Cape Town CBD has also not operated for two years after the City could not reach an agreement with operators.
The provincial transport department said contingency plans were in place to ensure commuters who used the closed route between Bellville and Mbekweni would access other transport modes.
The transport MEC’s spokesperson, Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka, said extra Golden Arrow bus trips were scheduled between Bellville and Paarl for the period of the closure of that taxi route.
Commuters would also be able to use existing Metrorail train services between Bellville and Paarl.
Mitchell said the closure of the routes and ranks was expected to bring stability to the public transport environment in affected areas and to support the process of achieving lasting peace.
“We can longer be held hostage by a criminal few who continue to undermine the interests of many law-abiding taxi drivers and who threaten both the lives and livelihoods of our residents,” Mitchell added.
A spokesperson for Codeta, Andile Kanyi, was adamant that it was the responsibility of the government to find the solution.
"You can't have two associations operating on the same route. The government has to sort that out first," Kanyi said.
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industries called for an urgent solution.
"It is ludicrous for some in the Cape Town taxi industry to use violence against their competitors. Not only does it scare off potential paying passengers, it creates a vicious cycle negatively affecting the entire City economy – not least the taxi sector itself," said Chamber president Jacques Moolman.
He said lack of transport prevented people from getting to and from work, and the costs were “almost incalculable”.
The Weekend Argus