State takes two different directions on violence

Tebogo Monama and Waghied Misbach

Tebogo Monama and Waghied Misbach

The Transport Department has washed its hands of any responsibility for the taxi wars within the country that are claiming hundreds of lives.

And while the government fiddles on the sidelines, commuters continue to get caught in the crossfire during running battles between warring taxi associations.

But the Transport and Safety and Security Departments, the only two that could stop the carnage, have sent out different messages to the public.

Transport spokesman Colin Msibi said: "The government is not shooting people. Taxi drivers are the culprits.

"The government does not have any obligation to commuters who are killed or injured during taxi feuds," he said.

"Its role is to make sure that the people who are doing these barbaric acts are arrested."

But the Safety and Security Department sang a different song yesterday. Minister Charles Nqakula's spokesman Trevor Bloem said in parliament that police were taking the situation "very seriously".

He said the taxi violence was largely centred on the fight over taxi routes in Gauteng.

"Without diminishing the fact that it is of concern that people are harmed or killed, we must remember that there has been far worse violence in previous years.

"We must not be alarmist and conclude that this will affect 2010 in any way."

Bloem said that if necessary, more police would be deployed to tackle the violence.

Msibi said it was impossible to deploy officers at taxi ranks because "with taxi violence, you never know when they will fight".