Squash taxi violence now

FIRST CHOICE: Minibus taxis still remain the most preferred mode of public transportation in South Africa.
FIRST CHOICE: Minibus taxis still remain the most preferred mode of public transportation in South Africa.

TAXI violence, it seems, is again resurfacing; it has to be stopped.

Akin to a low-intensity civil war, taxi bosses have been dying over time and just this week an umpteenth life was lost.

This obviously calls for quick, decisive action from the police before more lives are lost.

Yesterday taxi commuters had to run for cover when unknown men opened fire on a member of a rival association during a drive-by shooting.

We have seen in the past that when something like this happens it sparks more incidents - with members of the associations involved going all out to take revenge on their enemies.

Also, when skirmishes erupt, the wars spread to other areas, particularly those that have their routes connecting to the major ranks in the major centres. We have in the past seen this happening on routes leading to KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

Violence will continue unabated if the authorities do not take steps to regulate the taxi industry.

The government has allowed this industry to become saturated by giving out permits almost willy-nilly, leading to a free-for-all on routes around the country.

It is also the absence of harsh penalties for those who break the law on the roads that has led to operators opening new, illegal taxi ranks anywhere they wish.

It is not difficult to regulate the taxi industry and to police it closely. Associations must be punished heavily, or have their routes closed when their members misbehave, or are found to have started the violence.

Taxi operators have in the past displayed their arrogance by blocking freeways and pointing firearms, or even shooting at law-enforcement officers.

A case in point, highlighting their arrogance, was when they opposed the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transport system and shot at buses and passengers.

The government has in the past proposed measures such as the recapitalisation programme, the crushing of un-roadworthy taxis, and the issuing of permits that restrict operators to particular routes.

No one knows why the government is taking years to implement programmes to control the situation and save lives.

The South African National Taxi Council's Philip Taaibosch has also called for the industry to be regulated and warned that violence would otherwise continue. He has said the issue was raised with the Transport Department several times before.

This clearly shows there are those in the industry who are willing to work with the authorities to curb taxi wars. So, what is the government waiting for?

A bloodbath?