Bheki Cele shuts down major taxi routes in Mthatha ahead of Easter weekend

Police minister Bheki Cele.
Police minister Bheki Cele.

You're not a funeral parlour! Police Minister Bheki Cele has announced the immediate and indefinite closure of major taxi routes in Mthatha and surrounding areas‚ due to ongoing conflicts which have resulted in the killing of more than 60 people since it erupted in 2016.

The affected routes are the R61 and the N2 junction to Maclear and Tsolo respectively‚ his office said in a statement.

"The selfishness of the taxi industry must be cut to zero‚ we cannot continue to count dead bodies like a taxi load‚" said Cele.

"Sixty people is a big number‚ the killings must be eradicated . . .

"The routes belong to the citizens of this country and are not to be manipulated by taxi bosses for selfish financial gains‚" said Cele.

The shutdown of the routes follows several interventions‚ including the signing of peace accord‚ facilitated by the provincial government to bring peace to the rival associations.

"All interventions to date have failed dismally‚ hence the Police Minister has taken drastic measures in stamping the authority of the State‚" the ministry said.

Cele commented: "This is not the first time that a decision of closing down the taxi routes is taken‚ but what is different this time is that unless there is absolute compliance to the peace accord‚ the routes will be closed indefinitely‚ so that the hand of government is felt in this area. Even if they take us to court‚ we will defend the authority of the State."

"After the signing of the ceasefire agreement 13 people have been killed and 17 cases of attempted murder have been registered; we are not a banana republic‚ therefore business cannot continue as usual. In fact‚ the taxi business can rather go down to its knees instead of masquerading as a funeral parlour‚" said Minister Cele.

The ministry said Cele together with the provincial leadership in the Eastern Cape led by the MEC for Transport‚ Safety and Liaison‚ Weziwe Tikana‚ and SAPS Provincial Commissioner‚ Lt Gen Liziwe Ntshinga‚ had a lengthy meeting with the top executive of the two rival taxi operators - Uncedo Services Taxi Association and Border Alliance Taxi Association.

"The discussions were exhausted without any of the parties taking responsibility of the ongoing violence except expressing themselves in admitting to the severity of the pain of the ongoing killings‚ which have claimed lives of both operators and innocent commuters.

"Police investigations are at an advanced stage to apprehend the masterminds in the taxi wars."

The police ministry announced a team of specialised forces had been deployed to strategic and volatile areas to maintain law and order as well as to increase police visibility to ensure public safety.

Police-driven operations have so far yielded results in arresting 48 people‚ who are also positively linked to other serious and violent crimes in other provinces.

In taking the decision to close down the taxi operations indefinitely‚ Cele indicated willingness to meet both taxi operators "once they have sobered up".

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