Government has taken drastic measures to curb a spate of killings involving two taxi associations in Ladysmith.
MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Mxolisi Kaunda on Wednesday announced that he would be shutting down both the Sizwe Transport and Klipriver taxi associations.
He described the area as "conflict-ridden" and said the department had to "apply extraordinary measures to restore calm, peace and stability".
"To this end, following incidents of violence related to the taxi industry in this area, which have led to killings of scores of taxi operators, their family members and relatives as well as innocent citizens, I have decided to call off operations by both Sizwe Transport and Klipriver taxi associations."
Kaunda said he had the blessing of the provincial executive council and that the decision was taken following several meetings and interventions in the troubled region.
"Government's interventions have been met with more violence that increasingly threatens the stability of the industry and safety of citizens."
Since 2014, high levels of unrest and violence have claimed 61 lives, most of them on routes operated by the two associations.
Previous transport MEC and now Premier Willis Mchunu had also attempted to bring calm to the area during his tenure.
In October alone, six people were killed in the conflict between the taxi associations.
Kaunda said attempts by the department to engage with the two associations often failed to find solutions.
He said the tipping point was when, during an intervention meeting, he was alerted to the brutal killing of the deputy chairperson of the Klipriver Taxi Association, Mzikayifani Ngobese, two members of his family, his two bodyguards and six other passengers, five of whom were school teachers.
"This unfortunate incident occurred three days after I had convened a meeting with the two associations, again in an attempt to find a lasting solution to the conflict."
"To us, this incident demonstrated the extent to which members of these two associations undermine the authority of the state, and thereby act as if they are not governed by the laws of this country."
He said that government had to take action.
"We have thus taken the decision to suspend all taxi operations of Klipriver and Sizwe taxi associations in Ladysmith for six months. This means that both Sizwe and Klipriver taxi associations will not operate during the said period."
The suspension comes into effect from Thursday.
Kaunda said the decision had not been an easy one to make as the department recognised the fact that it would negatively affect the "mostly innocent, working class commuters, who rely on taxis for their daily travel to school, to clinics, to work, and to town".
He said commuters did not deserve to go through their days uncertain whether their loved ones would make it back home alive. He condemned the disregard for human life displayed by taxi operators "who should be valuing the lives of their customers in the first instance, because it is from them that they as operators owe their livelihoods".
He said the decision to suspend the taxi associations could only be reviewed once there was a tangible, workable plan between the two associations, which would assure government that the conflict would come to an end and commuters would feel safe again.