Joburg will be brought to a halt

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Law enforcement agencies have promised to be out in force to counter "any illegal activity" when taxi operators march in Johannesburg today.

Operators are protesting against the council's proposed Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system.

They have warned that the city will be brought to a halt from early morning when their protest starts.

"Everyone will be affected because we will blockade all routes into the city and areas such as Soweto," a driver said yesterday.

"It could be chaotic, so we say people must just sleep and not attempt to get into the city."

The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and the police said yesterday that they were ready to face "any eventuality".

Operators estimate there will be 10000 marchers. They intend to hand over a memorandum at the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, and another one at the offices of the Gauteng department of transport.

JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said yesterday: "We are ready. We know the streets that will be affected and we will be on the lookout and ensure that the march is peaceful."

Police spokesperson Captain John Maluleke said: "Previous experience has taught us that there is intimidation of working drivers by taxi drivers when they take to the streets.

"We will have 200 SAPS personnel to ensure there are no criminal activities.

"Other [protesting] drivers have a tendency to park their vehicles in places not designated for parking and join the march, causing traffic blockades.

"Our task will be to ensure that the march by the taxi operators goes according to the stipulated rules."

Twenty-nine taxi operators opposed to BRT have organised themselves into a structure called the United Taxi Association Forum (Utaf). They say they are opposed to BRT because it would take away their jobs.

"We don't even understand what this BRT is because it has not been explained to us. It will take away our jobs. Imagine what will happen to our drivers if there is this new system," said Utaf's spokesperson Joe Mophuthing.

He said the forum would deliver one memorandum to the ANC headquarters - to bring the matter to the ruling party's attention - and the other to the taxi registrar to protest "the impounding of taxis".

Another taxi group which is engaged in negotiations with the City of Johannesburg said it would not take part in the march - but would not risk their drivers and commuters "if the situation turned dangerous".

The Johannesburg council has always insisted that it will go ahead with the BRT project - with or without the taxi operators' approval.