Hopes for end to taxi war rest on route closure

The police and army were patrolling the Bellville taxi rank on Monday July 26 when route closures took effect.

The closure of a key taxi route between Bellville and Mbekweni in Paarl is a step in the right direction to stop more people dying in the taxi war, say the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) and the Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata).

A bitter feud between Cata and the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta) has cost more than 80 lives since the start of the year.

Last Friday, Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell announced a two-month closure of the B97 Mbekweni-Bellville route. Also closed are all routes and ranks, including lanes and long-distance route facilities, at the Bellville Public Transport Interchange as well as the Paint City rank and the informal rank in Bellville. The closures took effect on Monday July 26.

Santaco and Cata have welcomed the decision to close the B97 route.

The closed loading lanes at the Bellville transport interchange include: Tygervalley, Durbanville, Welgemoed, Gugulethu, Mowbray, Nyanga, Kraaifontein, Kuils River, Lower Crossroads, Langa, Samora Machel, Stellenbosch, Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, Happy Valley, Mfuleni and Wesbank.

On Tuesday July 6, two taxi drivers from Bellville were shot at in Robert Sobukwe Road.

“Preliminary investigation indicates that an unknown person was standing in Robert Sobukwe Road near the Bellville taxi rank and just opened fire at the two taxis who passed,” said Bellville police spokesman Captain Johnathan Blankenberg.

“Both drivers were wounded and drove into Belrail Road to the fire station for medical assistance. One of the men succumbed to his injuries.

“Due to the recent taxi violence, Bellville police, along with other forces are patrolling Bellville taxi rank and the hotspot routes in Bellville daily to safeguard commuters.”

Santaco spokesman Gershwin Geyer said their organisation had been acting as a facilitator between the warring taxi associations. He said Santaco agreed with the decision to close the route.

“We’ve tried for more than a week with Cata and Codeta to find a solution between the two, and, unfortunately, none of the two parties wants to come to an agreement that would suit everybody. So if the route closure is going to save some lives, then we support this initiative,” he said.

The B97 route from Bellville to Paarl lay at the heart of the feud between the two taxi associations, but there were other underlying issues as well, he said.

“At a later stage of the talks, Codeta brought up a lot of other issues that they felt should be dealt with. So it seems that B97 is not the only problem that Codeta has, as they felt that there are also some infringements on their other routes as well as off-route driving, and they hope all these issues can be solved in a holistic manner.”

Both parties felt the other was getting preferential treatment from the government, he said.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith visited the Bellville rank on Thursday July 22 while municipal police did vehicle checks and searched for guns.

The MEC had warned both Cata and Codeta two weeks in advance of his intention to close the route should they fail to make peace, he said.

“Both parties also felt that it was best that the B97 route, as well as the Paarl taxi rank, be closed.”

Cata spokesman Andile Samayo agreed the route closure was needed to quell the violence.

“I think this is the best way to stop what is happening in the province. We do feel, however, that when he did this he could have called us and told us he took this decision and let us know which taxi ranks were operating.”

Codeta spokesman Besuthu Ndungane declined to comment on the B97 route closure.