KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Bheki Cele yesterday gave warring taxi operators at Mpumalanga, outside Durban, seven days to end their conflict or he will shut down their operations.
The Mpumalanga Taxi Association has been at loggerheads with other taxi operators, resulting in open clashes and the deaths of three people, including a taxi boss, in the last month alone.
Relatives of some taxi owners have even fled the area. The feud over routes has been in existence since the 1990s.
Speaking in Durban yesterday, Cele said the acts of violence and intimidation, which had resulted in the deaths of innocent commuters and taxi operators, will no longer be tolerated in the province.
He said there had been numerous interventions by his office to try and resolve the conflicts at Mpumalanga, but the impasse remained unresolved.
"Flowing from the last meeting I had with the association on Wednesday night at the Mpumalanga police station in an attempt to find a lasting peaceful solution to this matter, the associations failed dismally to rise above their petty internal issues and put the interests of the commuters and the people of Mpumalanga first," Cele said.
He said he had therefore directed them to cease taxi operations with effect from yesterday to restore law and order and spare the lives of innocent people.
Cele said that after the decision to shut down operations, he was contacted by prominent citizens and various community leaders who offered to help the provincial government to find a solution to the crisis.
"I then decided to allow any form of mediation by these leaders to ease the pressure that the people of Mpumalanga and the commuters might suffer when the taxi operations are closed down," said Cele.
He said he would allow any form of mediation over the next seven days, and if this failed he would close down taxi operations at Mpumalanga indefinitely.
Should the operations be closed down, new operators would be given an opportunity to operate, Cele said.