Taxi owners bring in the big guns as police monitor Soweto route war

Taxis
Taxis

More than 30 agitated taxi owners under the Nanduwe association gathered at Mofolo Crossroad’s Shell garage in Soweto on Thursday morning‚ guarded by five armed men with rifles.

Ziphathele Shezi‚ spokesperson for Nanduwe‚ told TimesLIVE that they are taking part in a route shutdown in Soweto‚ despite the inconvenience.

The shutdown follows an ongoing taxi war.

 “The people carrying rifles are here to protect us since our members are dying. It all started when we went to the registrar at the department of roads and transport to verify why we can’t operate on our designated routes. To which we found that the places were permitted under Nanduwe.

 “Then WATA took us to court and we won the case. They then appealed and won again. We are surprised that the government is not allowing us to operate on our routes.

“The pickup areas they closed are the ones we operate in. We are compliant with the shutdown‚ but it’s hard because we are losing money. The Joburg route is our major source of income. We have installments to pay and this will inconvenience us. We can’t say if we will wait the whole month. The government will decide.

“We are pleading with the government to allow us to operate at our routes.”

Dube taxi rank was at a standstill‚ with a heavy police presence.

A stranded elderly woman‚ Maphefo Sebeko‚ said that she had no idea there was a shutdown.

“I have never heard of this‚ what will I do? I have to get to Helen Joseph hospital‚” she said.

“These associations were fighting over the abandoned Phefeni Caltex garage as a pickup point for commuters‚” said Aaron Ntuli‚ a beggar who helps people carry luggage at the rank.

Anton Gumbi‚ a street vendor‚ said that the police presence was unusual and had started on Wednesday.

“Since yesterday the police have occupied this garage‚ which was used as a pickup spot for commuters‚ so no one is standing there. This is one of the factors that caused the route war. It’s not a taxi rank per se but a common pickup area.

Taxis from Rockville and Zola in Soweto used to compete over commuters who stand at the garage for transport to Joburg CBD.

“They fight for the bare minimum money they can make. There’s a lot of competition between the associations. People pay R12‚50 to go to town. It’s not a lot but they have to live. Some pickup spots are fully operational‚ like Rockville just opposite us. We don’t see people coming to us‚ they can still access transport‚” said a taxi driver who asked to remain anonymous.

On Tuesday Ismail Vadi‚ MEC for roads and transport‚ announced the closure of five taxi ranks after a prolonged route dispute between two associations‚ Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association (Nanduwe) and Witwatersrand Taxi Association (WATA).

Nanduwe taxi operators have been accusing Wata of defying a court judgment ordering them to withdraw their taxis from the Dube route and also prohibiting them from picking up passengers in the area. They have also been fighting over early morning pickup points in Mofolo‚ Orlando West‚ and Central Western Jabavu.

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