KZN transport MEC bans taxi operators as at least 60 die in violent clashes
KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda on Wednesday shut down two provincial taxi associations as an "extraordinary" measure to deal with escalating industry violence.
The Sizwe Transport and Klipriver taxi associations both had their operating licences revoked due to a spate of killings in the Ladysmith area in recent months.
This decision‚ said Kaunda‚ was informed by the National Land Transport Act and was an attempt to "restore calm‚ peace and stability in a conflict-ridden area". Scores of taxi operators‚ their family members and innocent citizens have been caught up in the violence‚ he added.
"Violence in this region has a long history. Since 2014‚ there have been high-levels of unrest and violence‚ which has claimed the lives of 61 people‚ particularly in the routes operated by Sizwe Transport and Klipriver taxi associations‚" said Kaunda at a media conference.
While there was relative peace in the last three years‚ following government intervention‚ more recent incidents of violence sparked Kaunda back into action. The clashes are over contested routes between the two associations.
"In October this year‚ I was alerted to the fact that about six people had been killed in the conflict involving Sizwe and Klipriver taxi associations. I then proactively assigned officials from my department (transport) to engage with the two associations. Unfortunately‚ only one association attended. Furthermore‚ I personally convened a meeting with the two associations in a bid to prevent more killings‚ owing to each association claiming to be the rightful owners of the routes at the centre of the conflict.
"While in the middle of the talks‚ we were then alerted to the brutal killing of the deputy chairperson of the Klipriver Taxi Association‚ Mr Mzikayifani Ngobese‚ two members of his family‚ his two protectors or bodyguards‚ and five school teachers and one male passenger. This unfortunate incident occurred three days after I had convened a meeting with the two associations‚ again in an attempt to find a lasting solution to the conflict. To us‚ this incident demonstrated the extent to which members of these two associations undermine the authority of the State‚ and thereby act as if they are not governed by the laws of this country‚" said Kaunda.
Immediately after the incident‚ Kaunda called another meeting with the leadership of the industry in the area. But that didn't help.
"It is unfortunate that even after this latter meeting‚ people continued to die. On 24 November‚ I convened yet another meeting with both associations to urge them to resolve their dispute through constructive engagement. The fact that two people were killed after this meeting‚ was also a clear indication that the taxi operators were not prepared to sit down and resolve their differences amicably‚" he said.
With seemingly no solution at hand‚ Kaunda said he took the step of revoking both associations' licences for six months - starting on Thursday.
"This was not an easy decision‚ because we know it will negatively affect the mostly innocent‚ working class commuters‚ who rely on taxis for their daily travel to school‚ to clinics‚ to work‚ and to town. However‚ because we value the lives of our people‚ we would rather spare them from the daily hazards of using minibus taxis in Emnambithi [Ladysmith].
“No child deserves to bid goodbye to their mother or father in the morning‚ and go through the day uncertain if their parents will return home in the afternoon.
“Surely‚ neither of the parents should live to fear for the safety of their spouses owing to the conflict between operators‚ who should be valuing the lives of their customers in the first instance‚ because it is from them (commuters) that they as operators owe their livelihoods‚" he said.