South Africa: Rival Soweto Taxi Associations Claim Peace After Deadly Clashes Over Routes

Two warring minibus taxi associations in Soweto claim to have found common ground after six taxi ranks in the area were closed this week.

Earlier this week, Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi slapped the Witwatersrand African Taxi Owners Association (WATA) and Nancefield Dube West Taxi Association (Nanduwe) with a three-month ban, barring them from operating at the six locations.

Vadi closed the ranks from Friday until June 15.

This followed a series of violent clashes between the groups since the beginning of the year, including the murder of WATA members 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.

On Friday, nine minibus taxis belonging to the two associations were impounded by law enforcement officials after they operated in the early hours of the morning against Vadi's orders.

The nine impounded taxis were found queuing at Mahalefele Street in Phefeni, Soweto. The taxis were later taken to Orlando East Police Station. The owners of those taxis will face prosecution in terms of the regulations that were promulgated by Vadi.

Fifteen taxi drivers were also arrested for contravention of regulations which prevented them from operating on routes which have been closed.

READ: Satawu welcomes decision to close 6 Soweto taxi ranks tomorrow

Spokespersons from Wata and Nanduwe both said the groups had smoked the peace pipe and agreed to work together to find a peaceful solution.

Wata's George Maphalala said they had agreed to obey the law and would continue engaging with Vadi until the ranks were opened.

"We concluded that no taxi owner, driver or queue marshal will be allowed to carry a firearm in those taxi ranks, whether the weapon was licensed or not. We are going to meet with Vadi and Gauteng Premier David Makhura in Soweto on Saturday afternoon to address this issue.

"We are suffering and our passengers are suffering too. They have to walk long distances to catch taxis, buses or trains to go to their various destinations. The situation is very painful to all of us," said Maphalala.

Meanwhile, the ANC in Gauteng has taken note of the decision by Vadi to keep the taxi ranks and routes in Soweto closed.

Spokesperson Tasneem Motara said the bloodshed, malicious damage to property and public violence that had characterised the turf war between two taxi associations had gone on for far too long.

"The ANC calls on the two taxi associations to find the middle ground and ensure that they put the interest of commuters first. The closure of the affected taxi ranks and routes will no doubt impact negatively on commuters, however, the safety of public transport users is of paramount importance.

"Public transport, especially the taxi industry has been playing a pivotal role in propelling the economy of Gauteng by transporting commuters to various parts of the province thus enabling economic activity," said Motara.

She added the party remained committed to ensuring the transformation of the public transport sector through investment in the modernisation of public transport infrastructure and giving commuters access to a more integrated, accessible, affordable, reliable and safe public transport system.

"This is an important component of spatial transformation and the advancing of social transformation and building an inclusive economy,' concluded Motara.

READ: Satawu welcomes decision to close 6 Soweto taxi ranks tomorrow

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) also welcomed the closure of the taxi ranks, although it said it was worried about the negative impact the closure would have on the economy.

The union condemned territorial disputes that result in death and injury. It hoped that an amicable solution through the current negotiation process will resolve existing violence and tensions between the two associations.

Source: News24

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