MEC grounds minibuses

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele yesterday shut down the entire operations of taxi associations at Empangeni on the north coast in the province.

The clampdown on warring taxi operators is in response to the unending battles between KwaDlangezwa and Esikhawini taxi associations that started in March this year.

The two associations cover more than 30 routes on the north coast.

Yesterday Cele said he had taken the decision after several attempts to resolve the dispute had failed.

The fighting has claimed the lives of more than six people including taxi operators, drivers and commuters.

Cele said operations would cease as from midnight until the two associations resolved their differences over the routes.

Cele said the operators risked being arrested and their taxis impounded if they continued to operate without resolving the outstanding conflict.

"The safety of commuters comes first, therefore, we lived up to our pledge to defend the weak.

"The department has a mandate to provide the public with a safe, integrated, regulated, affordable and accessible transportation system in the province.

"We have met with the rival association more than 12 times with the aim of finding a long-lasting solution to the conflict," said Cele.

Alternative transport had been arranged to ensure the movement of commuters, he said.

Cele said dedicated buses for school children, especially those writing exams, would be provided and would also be protected.

Nhliziyo Dlamini, chairman of Esikhawini Taxi Association said they were disputing Dlangezwa's legal right to operate in their township.

Dlamini said the problem was created by the department which had issued the permits.

"We agreed that they can transport people from Dlangezwa to Esikhawini, but they can't have a rank," he said.