Court lifts KZN transport MEC's operating ban on local taxi association
The Pietermaritzburg High Court has lifted a ban imposed by KwaZulu-Natal transport and community safety MEC Mxolisi Kaunda on the Klipriver Taxi Association’s operations.
Last year Kaunda convened an urgent meeting of security agencies and taxi operators in Ladysmith following the killing of the association’s deputy chairperson Samson Hlatshwayo.
A provincial police task team was assigned at the time to investigate his murder - one in a series of bloody deaths between the feuding Klipriver Taxi Association (KTA) and Sizwe Taxi Association.
Kaunda suspended operations of both organisations. Since 2014 more than 61 taxi operators have been killed in the area.
The suspension was further extended by six months in June.
But in September last year KTA turned to the court to lift the ban.
The order - in association with three religious organisations - was to be lifted in October pending a formal review.
On Friday last week‚ the court set aside the suspension and held the MEC liable for the association’s legal costs.
According to the judgment "this is a case of holding the decision maker [Kaunda] accountable for his actions which have far reaching implications for the affected community‚ as well as for the taxi operators whose livelihoods are affected from what could ostensibly amount to an indefinite suspension of their routes.
"Perhaps the most glaring reason to find in favour of KTA‚ is that a law abiding party is being forced‚ purportedly under the guise of legislation‚ to part with what has been lawfully allocated to it.
"It is akin to putting the proverbial gun to the head of the applicant [KTA] in exchange for allowing it to lawfully conduct its business. Such a scenario cannot be condoned by the courts."
The judgment went onto to say that the "flaw in the MEC suspending KTA from making use of its long distance routes is that these have been lawfully allocated to it by the department of transport.
"There is nothing ... to suggest that KTA has violated a condition of licence issued to it‚ or infringed the operation of the allocated routes.
"Further‚ to the extent that the MEC believes this measure can reduce the levels of violence in the industry‚ all evidence points to the members of KTA being killed.
"On the other hand‚ all signs point to Sizwe in seeking to lay claim to routes already allocated lawfully to KTA.
"It is not the members of Sizwe who are under attack in the violence that has taken place."
“As the department‚ we have noted the judgment and we are currently looking at its implications in terms of ensuring the stability in the volatile taxi industry in the province‚” said Kaunda in a statement issued on Tuesday.
He said the department would continue to apply section 91 of the Land Transport Act whenever the safety and security of passengers and operators was threatened.
Source: TMG Digital.