Vehicles seized as routes reopen

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

While commuters are celebrating the reopening of taxi routes in 30 areas at Empangeni on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, rival taxi bosses at the centre of the issue were spitting fire.

On Wednesday, transport, community safety and liaison MEC Bheki Cele announced that he was reopening the routes operated by the warring Kwa-Dlangezwa and Esikhawini taxi associations.

Cele said the two parties had resolved their conflict.

However, yesterday the operators denied that a peace deal had been struck.

They said they were also angry about the deployment of Shanela - the Traffic Enforcement Unit - in the area by the provincial transport department.

They said within minutes of the routes being opened, several vehicles belonging to them were impounded by Shanela officers.

The two groups have been at war since March. This has resulted in the deaths of several people. Cele took the decision after several attempts to resolve the dispute claimed the lives of six people including taxi operators, drivers and commuters.

At the time he said operations would resume once the parties had settled the dispute over routes. Esikhawini Taxi Association spokesman Nhliziyo Dlamini said they were over the moon when they heard that Cele had decided to open the routes, but their celebrations were short-lived when they found Shanela officers "camping in local townships".

Dlamini said five of his vehicles were impounded for operating with temporary permits.

"I had high hopes that it was going to be business as usual yesterday, but we were forced to pull out most of our taxis because we feared that they would be impounded. We were given the permits by the department," Dlamini said.

He said there was no "peace settlement between him and his rivals. I only heard from the media that Cele had decided to reopen the routes. The issue of routes still stands. We are prepared to sit down with Cele and KwaDlangezwa to discuss the issue," he said.

KwaDlangezwa spokesman Fana Mngomezulu said one of their vehicles was impounded by Shanela operatives.

"No agreement was reached as this matter between us and Esikhawini is in court. We are not happy with the Shanela campaign being waged in our area.

"After losing out on three weeks of business we are disappointed. This is not good," Mngomezulu added.

Department of Transport spokesman Nonkululeko Mbatha said the associations were informed that the routes were being reopened under strict conditions and that the law would be strictly enforced.

"The taxis were impounded for a valid reason. Shanela would never impound vehicles for nothing. The taxi operators are aware that Shanela, by law, has a right to impound all taxis operating without a permit," she said