Johannesburg bus operators and passengers yesterday demanded that police stop taximen from commandeering Putco buses on Louis Botha Avenue in attacks that have terrorised hundreds of commuters since last week.
Taxi operators have been hauling terrified passengers off buses and forcing them into their minibuses for the past two weeks. Buses that refuse to stop are stoned.
Louis Botha Avenue is one of the main roads that link the northern suburbs and townships such as Alexandra to central Johannesburg.
Two taxi associations, the Alexandra Taxi Association and the Alexandra-RandburgMidrand-Sandton Taxi Association, are brazenly carrying out the violence while police stand by passively.
"These people are going to kill us and we can't even protect ourselves," Portia Mabuza, a passenger on a bus that was stoned by the taximen this week, said.
Putco spokesman Matlakala Matona said yesterday the company had tried to engage the taxi associations in discussions but the taximen had refused to talk.
"This is a police matter and they must act with a firm hand, otherwise blood will be spilt," she said.
Matona said she thought the taximen were terrorising buses because they feared the government's reorganisation of their industry with the Taxi Recapitalisation Programme.
"They probably think that the government wants to get rid of them because of the recapitalisation programme and they don't have better ways to fight it," she said.
Eric Cormelius, of the South African Bus Operators's Association, said the buses were authorised to operate on Louis Botha Avenue.
He said bus operators would not take the law into their own hands but would rely on the police to enforce the law and ensure the safety of passengers.
"What the taximen are doing is totally unacceptable and we will make sure that the authorities ensure the safety of our commuters," said Cormelius.
On Monday a bus full of passengers travelling from Woodmead to Soweto was stoned when the driver refused to stop for the taximen.
The driver, Nathaniel Tladi, then drove to nearby Bramley police station, but officers there refused to open a case.
They allegedly told Tladi to return the next day.
Tladi's 60 passengers demanded that he stop at Sowetan's offices on Monday night and pleaded for help to publicise the problem because the police were being indifferent to their plight.
Police yesterday said they had launched an investigation into why Tladi was sent away from Bramley police station without a case being opened.
"We have scheduled an interview for tomorrow with the bus driver about the allegations because we want to gather more information," said Altus Mouton of Bramley police station.
Mouton said the police had also held meetings with the two taxi associations involved in the attacks.
"We have had talks, but clearly they disregard the law because the violence continues," said Mouton.