Commuters suffer most in taxi war

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

The shutdown of taxi operators servicing commuters at Esikhawini and KwaDlangezwa townships, at Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, has left pupils and workers stranded.

Commuters said alternative transport arrangements had failed to meet demands by workers and schoolchildren. The two taxi operators cover 30 routes in the area.

On Friday, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele grounded operations of the rival Esikhawini and Kwadlangezwa taxi associations. Since March, the two associations had been involved in violent conflicts over routes.

Cele said several attempts to resolve the dispute that has claimed the lives of more than six people, including taxi operators, drivers and commuters, had failed. He said operations would only resume once the two associations had resolved the conflict over routes.

If the parties operated without resolving the conflict, police would arrest defaulters and impound their taxis.

A commuter, Bheko Mabaso, said it made no sense for Cele to ground all taxi operations in the townships.

"I'm amazed by the way MEC Cele has handled the whole situation. We have been suffering for two days now. We can't work properly.

"Yesterday was bad for the workers and schoolchildren, some of whom were forced to stay home. We know that Cele is trying to save us from the taxi war."

Nhliziyo Dlamini, chairman of Esikhawini Taxi Association, said passengers were suffering.

"The problem is not with Cele, but with his department. We had agreed that the KwaDlangezwa association be allowed to operate in our area, but not at the rank in our township," he said.

Spokesman for the transport department Nonkululeko Mbatha said buses were in operation.

"The MEC will be meeting with both associations in the next 24 hours to find a long- lasting resolution," she said.

She said the Public Transport Act provided Cele with the power to close operations linked to taxi violence.