SOWETAN | Safeguard the lives of commuters

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

The latest closure of taxi routes in Soweto due to renewed clashes between two rival associations proves that violence is indeed endemic in the industry.

On Monday, thousands of commuters in Soweto and Johannesburg were left stranded after Gauteng transport MEC Kedibone Diale-Tlabela closed taxi ranks and routes used by two associations  Nancefield-Dube West Taxi Association  and Witwatersrand Taxi Association.

The closure of the routes came after a resurgence in conflict between the two, which has been characterised by deadly fights over turf for more than a decade. The latest clashes, however, are evidence that the industry is not committed to peace.

This because there have been many such violent clashes before that have resulted in loss of lives and similar temporary closures of their routes. In 2021, the Gauteng government  also shut down the routes until an agreement was reached to ensure peace and harmony between the two associations.

This is the agreement that has now  been broken,  with the latest developments  forcing Diale-Tlabela to use her powers and revoke the associations’ operating licences to safeguard the lives of commuters.

Tensions remained high on routes operated by the two associations this week,  with some commuters reporting that they had witnessed acts of intimidation and threats directed at other taxi drivers.

Such is the situation  across the industry that whenever they cannot get things their way, violence becomes the default mode.

The taxi industry is far too important a sector of our economy to be left unregulated and in the hands of thugs who use violence instead of reason to resolve their problems. It transports millions of commuters every day to work and without this industry many workers would not be able to get around our cities.

However, as formidable a force to our economy the industry is, we cannot fold our arms when those in charge put the very lives they are meant to transport safely at risk because of greed.

The long-standing fight over routes is about profits for the taxi bosses who show no regard for human life whenever there is increased competition for transport. Law enforcement must clamp down hard on  those seeking to put the lives of commuters at risk.

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