Some Soweto/Joburg commuters left stranded

MEC closes warring taxi groups' routes and ranks

Noxolo Sibiya Journalist
Taxi commuters travelling between Soweto and Johannesburg were stranded yesterday due to a dispute by associations over routes.
Taxi commuters travelling between Soweto and Johannesburg were stranded yesterday due to a dispute by associations over routes.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Taxi services have been halted indefinitely in some parts of Soweto and the Joburg CBD, leaving thousands of commuters stranded. 

Gauteng transport MEC Kedibone Diale-Tlabela has urged commuters who rely on taxis belonging the  Nancefield-Dube West Taxi Association (Nanduwe) and Witwatersrand Taxi Association (Wata) to make alternative transport arrangements. 

This as her office moves to close taxi ranks and routes belonging to the two rival associations after a recent resurgence of violence between them which also threatens the safety of passengers and residents. 

“I am duty bound to ensure that public transport is safe and that the community is not forced to live under a stranglehold of violence. Public transport is there to make it easy for the commuting public to travel from home to work and back safely,” she said. 

Diale-Tlabela said her office had started a process of publishing a notice in the provincial gazette, indicating her intention to close taxi ranks and routes belonging to the two associations. 

For years, the two associations have been at each other's throats over four routes in Soweto. This has led to violent shootings which both parties claim to have led to the death of nearly 160 of their members combined, in the past eight years. 

Wata public relations officer Hamilton Miya said the routes were established and run by their association since 1972 until a breakaway group merged with Nanduwe some years ago.

“We did not mind sharing the routes, in fact, we still do not. Instead, over the years Nanduwe has been trying to completely take over our routes by intimidating us and pushing us out of our own routes. 

“We have lost about 78 of our members in the past eight years due to shootings because of this. But we still extend some grace asking that we work together, but they refuse to comply.” 

On March 13, Wata obtained a court order against Nanduwe, prohibiting it from preventing any Wata taxi operators from accessing the routes under dispute. 

The interdict prevents the threatening and assault of Wata members and that roads not be blocked to prevent them from operating.

In a March 26 meeting where the interdict was to be at the centre of the discussion, the associations met with Diale-Tlabela, where discussions deadlocked. 

Miya said they were disappointed that the court interdict was not regarded as grounds for peace.

"We have written to the MEC's office through our lawyers asking that she enforce the court order. We have given her seven days to respond to our requests after which we will take the matter back to the courts. We have said this and we will say it again, we want to work together." 

Nanduwe PRO Joseph Ngcobo said they did not agree with the court order as they believed they had sole rights to the routes. “Those routes are ours and our permits say that. Why must they come into our routes and take commuters. It's wrong. 

“What about the many other court orders that we got that were not upheld? There is a solution to this if we all stick to our routes.” 

Ngcobo said during this meeting they told the MEC that they do not agree with the move to suspend operations and asked that she give them time to sort out their differences. 

“With the already worrisome unemployment rate, such a move would seek to make our drivers part of the statistics. They rely on taxis to put food on the table. What will become of them if operations are suspended?" 

In the meantime, the MEC has deployed a joint operation spearheaded by Gauteng community safety and Road Traffic Management Cooperation officers.

The team has been on the ground since Friday and during their operations, they impounded 47 vehicles belonging to Wata (26) and Nanduwe (21). 

The department said law enforcement is paying a close eye on operations in Soweto, specifically routes around Zone 9 between Central Western Jabavu and Orlando West.  

“Commuters are advised to make use of alternative public transport such as Metrorail, municipal and provincial buses such as Putco and Rea Vaya services," said department spokesperson Lesiba Mpye. 

He said part of the reason for the problem is the dubious activities by officials from the department who were found to have issued duplicate permits to the associations.

The department said it was investigating some of its officials and would be pursuing criminal charges against those found in the wrong, even those who have left the system.


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