KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele has warned feuding taxi operators in Nongoma that if they did not come with a workable solution, he would shut down operations for six years if necessary.
Addressing ANC members in Nongoma yesterday as the party held its first victory celebrations in the province, Cele also said he would meet different stakeholders in Nongoma today to try to defuse tensions.
This comes amid taxi violence that has claimed 17 lives in the area between April last year and March this year.
Last week three taxi operators were shot and killed in the area.
The killings prompted the provincial department of transport to shut down taxi operations in affected routes operated by the Nongoma Taxi Association.
These included the Nongoma to Mkhuze, Nongoma to Vryheid via Driefontein, Nongoma to Empangeni via Hlabisa, KwaDlangezwa, Mtubatuba and Nkonjeni routes.
Also affected by the move were long-distance taxi operations, including the Nongoma to Newcastle, Nongoma to Durban via Eshowe, Gingindlovu, Mandeni, Melmoth and Ulundi, Nongoma to Gauteng via Heidelberg, Standerton, Utrecht, Volksrust and Vryheid routes.
"After all the failed attempts to bring peace in the area, we felt that it was no longer safe.
"It is actually a transport crisis. The senseless and barbaric killings can no longer be tolerated, which is why we took a decisive step to shut down the operations in the area," Cele said.
Cele said his department had tried on a number of occasions to have talks with feuding taxi operators, but to no avail.
"The department is committed to defend the poor, which is why we closed operations for a period of six months," he said.
Cele said reopening the ranks would depend entirely on how the taxi operators behaved.