Transport and Public Works MEC Daylin Mitchell has moved to stop 30 taxi ranks using the Bellville public transport interchange because of ongoing violence.
Mr Mitchell announced his notice of intention to temporarily close, for two months, the busy transport hub to 30 ranks, including Kuils River, Bloekombos and Wallacedene ranks.
Coming against the backdrop of three fatal shootings in Khayelitsha on Tuesday July 13, the notice came with a stern warning: should the violence continue, the MEC will also close all other routes jointly served by Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) Boland and the Paarl Alliance taxi association, which is aligned to the Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations (Codeta), for two months.
Premier Alan Winde’s office also gazetted a list of 30 routes connected to the Bellville interchange that are now closed.
In the press briefing, also attended by provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile and Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz, Mr Mitchell condemned the latest killings. There have been 76 taxi-related killings in the province since the start of the year, with 11 since last week.
Tensions over routes have flared between Cata and Paarl Alliance, reportedly over the Mbekweni-Paarl route, illegal operators and membership. Mr Mitchell says both Cata and Codeta claim the route.
In the gazette, Mr Mitchell said: “I intend to use all powers available to me as a provincial MEC to ensure the safety of commuters in the province.
“To this effect, my department has briefed counsel to urgently approach the courts to stop the cycle of violence between Cata and Codeta, by interdicting (both organisations) from recruiting and/encouraging illegal operators on routes that are signed to their affiliate associations.”
Mr Mitchell told the briefing he had met with Cata, Codeta and the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) on Thursday July 8 to find middle ground. He said Cata and Codeta had agreed to stop all violence.
Mr Mitchell said he has subsequently published his intention – in line with the Land Transport Act – to close the routes “in the interest of the commuters’ and taxi operators’ safety”.
He has also declared Bellville and Paarl areas as high-risk for taxi violence.
Taxi owners have been given an opportunity to comment on the notice by July 16.
“If anything changes with regards to routes being withdrawn or operators being withdrawn from a certain route, we will inform commuters,” the MEC said. “Also, just bear in mind, the legal operators also fear a possible spike in violence. For that reason, they’ve halted services in some routes, but as I’m informed most routes are operational.”
Cata-affiliate Bloewata (Bloekombos and Wallacedene Taxi Association) spokesperson Mawethu Sila said if ratified, the decision would back the taxi owners into untold debt.
“Why are they even thinking of closing our lanes when this (violence) has nothing to do with us? Why do they take a blanket approach to a matter where some taxi ranks and affiliations are not involved?” he said.
The decision would affect their repayments to banks for their taxis, he said.