Commuters left stranded

2013-06-13 00:00

TENSION over taxi routes in Mpophomeni Township, near Howick, flared up yesterday, leaving commuters stranded when taxis refused to operate in protest against competitors they deemed illegal.

Protestors blockaded the R617 near Mpophomeni in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The road connects Howick, Mpophomeni, Boston and other areas. It remained closed for about four hours.

Residents had to walk from the township to get transport to work, while others used alternative means.

Police and Road Traffic Inspectorate officers kept a watchful eye.

Officers and other motorists parked along the R617, unable to enter the township.

Uzimele and Howick Taxi Association secretary Lenard Makhaye complained they were not being protected.

“All associations in the province are not taking on new members because the Department of Transport instructed us not to accept new members, but this is creating problems for us. That is why we decided not to work today, because illegal operators are taking our jobs,” said Makhaye.

Commuters said they were caught off guard.

“We were not given any warning about this strike. I am already late for work because of this. I will wait for some form of transport to take to work. If I don’t find it, I will have to go home,” said Bongeka Mweli.

Slindile Shelembe, who was also waiting at the bus stop, said everyone was affected. “They did not tell us about anything. We are using buses now as they left us stranded.”

Inguga, Chief and MaShingeni Taxi Owners’ Association chairperson Mbikelwa Mtambo said they were operating in areas other than those where Uzimele operates.

“We don’t have a problem if they allow us to operate in [our] areas. Communities are struggling in Inguga, Chief, Emashingeni and Cedara [for transport] to Howick ... Communities asked us to help them because they feel that they are being isolated.”

He added that the areas around the township were expanding and the number of commuters growing.

Police spokesperson Captain Lolly Moodley said they were monitoring the situation at Mpophomeni.

“We did not have to use force ... they peacefully moved their taxis from the road.”

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