Gauteng police joined by other law enforcement agencies have impounded nine minibus taxis in Soweto following the closure of six taxi ranks on Friday morning.
This follows action by Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi, after violent clashes between rival taxi associations Witwatersrand Taxi Association (WATA) and Nancefield-Dube West Taxi Association (Nanduwe).
Police arrived in the early hours of the morning at the six identified taxi ranks that are operated by the two rival associations and ordered passengers who had already boarded minibus taxis to jump out and find alternative transport.Police units deployed to 6 shuttered Soweto taxi ranks
The nine impounded taxis were found queuing at Mahalefele Street in Phefeni, Soweto. The taxis were later taken to Orlando East police station.
The shutdown comes after a number of violent incidents between the two associations since the beginning of the year, including the murder of WATA member SB Hadebe, treasurer SM Zwane, and vice-chairperson MT Ngubane in January.
Several minibus taxis were attacked over several days in February in Diepkloof. Armed men prevented taxis from operating on March 1 and, four days later, another attack left six people wounded and 10 vehicles damaged.
Many commuters were left stranded, and some were seen running to buses and train stations to catch trains to work.
Sipho Nkosi was left frustrated after he was forced to walk a distance to Orlando East to catch a taxi to work.
"I am frustrated. I have to walk a long distance. Taxi operators must fix their problems quickly because we are suffering already. If things can go as planned by the MEC, it means we residents of Soweto will be left disgruntled," he said.
Another commuter, Thoko Ndlovu also called on the two associations to resolve their squabbles before criminals take advantage of the situation.
"If things will remain as they are for the next three months, crime will be high especially for us who leave early in the morning. We will be robbed and raped on our way to work. We are forced to walk a long distance to catch alternative taxis.
"This is way too much. It must be resolved quickly. It is not right for these two associations to kill each other. Now we are fearing for our lives. It is good that police are here today but, the question is will they be here daily until there is peace between the two associations?" she asked.
Ndlovu asked for government to provide an alternative taxi association to ferry passengers while Nanduwe and WATA resolve their conflicts.
Officials from Nanduwe and WATA said they have resolved their feud and have agreed that they will continue working together to ensure there will be peace between them.
Nanduwe spokesperson, Mlungisi Kunene, said they have been meeting with WATA since Monday.
"On Thursday, we agreed to work together and respect our permits. We have established a committee of eight people from each association that will be monitoring the situation. We have signed and agreed that there will be peace between us and we are going to respect our permits.
"What is happening here is sad because it also affects our clients. We are not happy and hope that by the end of the day, we will be back on the roads operating," said Kunene.
WATA spokesperson, George Maphalala, said they hoped that Vadi has received their memorandum of agreement and the MEC will allow them to operate.
"This is a painful situation. We plead for patience from our commuters and hope things will fine soon," said Maphalala.
The department said the closure will continue and there are 114 police and traffic officers deployed in Soweto.
"In terms of the published Regulations No.80 (Volume 25), no person is allowed to operate minibus taxi services along the specified ranks and routes in Soweto. A person is guilty of an offence if he/she operates minibus taxi services in contravention of the Regulation.
"Where a person is convicted of contravening regulation, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding R25 000.00 may be imposed. MEC Vadi has noted the signed agreement between the two associations and said that he is willing to consider further constructive representations on the matter," read the statement.