New push to end Cape Town taxi violence scourge as shootings continue to claim lives
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Cape Town - At one end of South Africa, taxi associations have been praised for keeping the “peace” and protecting shopping malls from being looted, but down in the Western Cape, it’s a different story.
Taxi drivers and bosses have been killing one another for months with commuters getting caught in the crossfire.
MEC for Transport and Public Works Daylin Mitchell said just halfway into July there have been 22 murders and 29 attempted murders from taxi violence.
The killings are over the B97 Paarl Mbekweni route which started between the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata), Boland and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) and the Codeta-aligned Paarl Alliance Taxi Association.
The conflicts also involve illegal operators who have managed to find their way into the business.
On not speaking out against the ongoing violence, SA National Taxi Council spokesperson Thabiso Molelekwa said: "You make a valid point (that we have been quiet on what is happening in the Western Cape), there are processes as the minister visited. We did not want to be seen as if we are discussing processes in public when they have requested to be given the opportunity to exhaust all avenues. The complaints about the Western Cape can no longer be ignored, at least we have to say something. I think tomorrow going forward we will shed some light in terms of what is happening in the Western Cape."
Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, Mitchell and the taxi associations were locked in a meeting for hours on Friday afternoon but no solution was forthcoming as the taxi bosses declined to comment.
“We have started an important journey, we have not finished (discussions) here,” said Mbalula outside Gene Louw Traffic College, Brackenfell. “We have got to bring the matter of the conflict between Cata and Codeta to a reasonable standstill and get the business of the taxi industry going.”
A day before Mbalula’s briefing, police intercepted what could have been one of the deadliest taxi-related shootings when they arrested armed men allegedly waiting to shoot at taxis coming into Khayelitsha from Cape Town in Mew Way.
Mbalula echoed the words of Mitchell and said that if no working solution was reached, they would be left with no choice but to close routes. This would not only affect operations but the general public as there would be no taxis to transport them.
If routes are closed, no minibus taxi services would be allowed on closed routes, and vehicles of offending operators would be impounded and the holder of the licence criminally prosecuted.
“That is the last resort and we are hoping that it will not get there,” said Mbalula.
It has been six weeks since Mitchell was appointed and he already has his hands full. The 35-year-old MEC said there is an arbitration process set for the end of this month that will help end the violence.
“During the arbitration process, there might be binding recommendations to both the government and associations. If the recommendations require us to do something, I will make sure of that.”
The two children who were shot on Thursday during further taxi violence are still in hospital. Both Mbalula and Mitchell reminded the taxi associations that the rule of law must be abided by or the country would be a “banana republic”.
Commuter Thandokazi Seyise said she and others who regularly use taxis are scared.
"I’m scared of going to work because of the shootings. They are now including us when shooting. If our government cannot make them stop, we as commuters must not board taxis until our safety is guaranteed.
“Then again, if we do not go to work, we will lose our jobs. Also, employers will stop hiring us when they find out we are from Khayelitsha because every year there is taxi violence."