drive for peace
KwaZulu-Natal's two main taxi bodies have agreed to join forces to end the bloodshed that is ravaging the industry.
The KwaZulu-Natal Transport Alliance and Taxi Council held a meeting in Durban yesterday with thousands of taxi owners.
Also at the meeting was provincial transport chief director Simo Chamane and Cosatu general secretary Zet Luzipho.
The two groups, representing more than 17000 taxi operators in the province, said they wanted to engage the government with "one voice".
The owners said they were being hamstrung by delays in the issuing of permits to taxi owners.
The operators also agreed that fighting over routes was a major cause of the violence in the industry and had claimed the lives of 139 taxi owners since the beginning of the year.
Transport Alliance spokesman Bafana Mhlongo said they opted to work together with the taxi council to "stop the propaganda" aimed at destroying the industry.
"We are forging a permanent and practical working relationship so that we talk to government with one voice," Mhlongo said.
"Our challenges are the same - petrol hikes and permit issues."
He said taxi violence was perpetuated by "greed and delays from the provincial department of transport board to issue permits".
He said a number of taxi operators were still without permits despite having applied as far back as 2000.
"A number of associations are still without permits owing to delays on the side of government," he said.
"This causes conflicts because there are people who simply put their vehicles on the routes without being registered."
He said every taxi on the road should operate on routes according to a permit. He also suggested that the industry look at its own codes of conduct.
Mzameli Mthiyane of the Taxi Council supported Mhlongo.
"We cannot be separated any more," Mthiyane said. "People with guns have destroyed the industry. The government can help by providing permits to those who are accepted and registered by their associations.
"The department should not chop and change their staff on the permit registration board because this leads to delays."
Chamane applauded taxi operators' gesture.
"If the people in the industry come to us united it will help," Chamane said. "We are already busy finalising the issuing of permits. We have been working hard for the past eight months.
"We will help the industry to ensure that problems are addressed."
Meanwhile, Transport Alliance spokesman Eugene Hadebe said: "Operators are fed up with the rising fuel costs and want some answers from the Department of Minerals and Energy."