workers stranded as taximen 'square off'

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Hundreds of workers were left stranded yesterday when taxis ground to a halt during a standoff between two rival associations at Verulam, north of Durban.

The conflict between the Zamukulungisa and Bhoolas taxi associations has allegedly been going on for a long time.

Yesterday the Zamukulungisa operators prevented passengers from using Bhoolas vehicles.

Bhoolas retaliated by bringing in armed private security guards to monitor the situation, claiming their rivals were armed. The situation became tense and the police were called in.

Robert Hlela, the chairman of Zamukulungisa, said the dispute started when Bhoolas allegedly loaded passengers from Bester to Verulam, but refused to allow them to load from Verulam to Bester.

"We have been negotiating with them for the past two months," Hlela said. "We feel we should load passengers back to Bester and they can bring them to Verulam. It's as simple as that.

"This business is a give-andtake operation but they seem to fail to understand that."

Hlela said after a meeting on Tuesday a temporary agreement was reached, allowing both associations to operate.

"We were surprised when they broke the agreement, hence the stand-off," Hlela said.

Bhoolas vice chairman Bheki Manzi denied that any agreement had been reached.

"Zamukulungisa wants to take over our rank," Manzi said. "We have been operating here since 1987. We were surprised when they suddenly showed interest on this route.

"They operate from Ndwedwe to Verulam and that's their legal route. Even their permits correctly say so."

Manzi said the law did not allow regional associations to work on the same route since it would create problems.

"If they put their firearms away we will talk," Manzi sais.

Police spokesman Captain Mandla Khumalo described the situation as tense.

He said the situation was worsened by one association bringing armed security guards to guard their taxis.

"In the morning passengers were barred from using taxis and we had to intervene," Khumalo said.

"We hope negotiations will yield a positive result because this dispute has been going on for a long time."