TAXI-RELATED violence in Johannesburg is spiralling out of control, the SA National Taxi Council said yesterday.

TAXI-RELATED violence in Johannesburg is spiralling out of control, the SA National Taxi Council said yesterday.

Briefing the media in Pretoria general secretary Philip Taaibosch said the violence stemmed from frustration with the government not honouring the role the industry played.

The arrest of more than 60 operators since the weekend and the intimidation of many more by police was "calculated, psychological manipulation" and an attempt to paint the industry as resistant to change, especially to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, he said.

"While Johannesburg has now acquired the attention of South Africa, further instilling worries about the Fifa World Cup due to start in June, we wish to appeal to the City of Johannesburg to retreat from this attitude (of confrontation) as it is now slowly spiralling out to other parts of the country."

Taaibosch said the government's constant non-cooperation had led to a looming national strike and taxi operators being arrested with no distinct charges.

"It's not about using '2010' as a platform. We support it and have been looking forward to it. If it happens that the strike goes on to '2010', let it be, but it is not planned."

Taaibosch said taxi operators were concerned about continued intimidation and unfortunately, with the "razzmatazz", commuters were suffering.

Santaco Johannesburg executive member Frans Mashishi said: "It is grossly unfair. This is not a police state. It looks like we are getting to be a police state, though."

He said members were also disgruntled about not being involved in any transport-related activities during the World Cup.

"We have had many meetings with MECs but we have no clarity on our involvement. But if they call us we will be ready," Mashishi said.

Taaibosch also lashed out at the government and the media in particular for placing the issue of converted and illegal panel vans at the industry's door.

"We did absolutely nothing wrong. They should stop lying that the taxi industry has anything to do with this."

Taaibosch said the taxis had been bought legally and with government collusion with dealerships and manufacturers.

He said he had also spoken to ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe about the taxi violence and was disturbed that the industry's concerns were not regarded as justified.

But Taaibosch said the industry still backed President Jacob Zuma's commitment to include it.

He said Zuma had referred the issue to Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, who had in turn delegated the problem to his deputy Jeremy Cronin, whom the industry had no confidence in. - Sapa