Taxi bosses storm city hall

2013-03-14 00:00

A GROUP of angry taxi owners stormed the office of Msunduzi municipal manager and left a chilling message — leave the industry alone or else.

At issue was a two-day workshop taking place in the Drakensberg where the city was engaging local taxi associations on their integration into Msunduzi’s integrated rapid public transport network (IRPTN).

It is not clear how the group of about 40 men went through security to threaten the municipal manager, Mxolisi Nkosi.

Nkosi said: “I was in my office when I was informed that a group of taxi operators had stormed into the city hall demanding to see me and the mayor, Chris Ndlela.”

He said they threatened to render the city ungovernable if he did not stop the Drakensberg workshop.

Affected taxi associations had been invited to meet a consultant appointed by the municipality last month to ensure that taxi operators sign up to the IRPTN process.

Nkosi said he told the group that the city dealt only with recognised structures.

The operators said that if Nkosi did not call off the Drakensberg meeting it meant that he was siding with certain factions within the warring taxi industry.

A taxi operator who did not want to be named said: “At the moment we are not satisfied with this bus system because we have not been fully briefed as to which associations will be affected.”

He said the the operators had decided to storm the city hall because they wanted answers.

The municipal manager said he was “taken aback and surprised” by the incident. “Unfortunately the mayor was out of the country and his deputy, Thobani Zuma, was out of town, so we decided to speak with these operators with the [municipal] speaker Babu Baijoo.”

Nkosi said he told the group that it was in their best interest to participate in the IRPTN because it was a government programme and would go ahead with or without them.

“The IRPTN would go on with or without their [taxi operators] support, but we would love them to be part of it,” he said.

The municipality did not have the capacity to deal with the internal problems of the taxi industry.

“We are only prepared to deal with one structure that will be representative of all the affected associations,” said Nkosi.

This was not the first time the city hall was stormed. Last year disgruntled traffic officers and other security personnel downed tools and stormed the hall, demanding to speak to Nkosi and Ndlela about work-related issues.

Nkosi admitted that security was a problem at the city hall and the municipality had been looking for a long-term solution.

“We will be beefing up security but not because of this incident,” he said.

Msunduzi Taxi Council chairperson Boy Zondi said: “We would like to distance ourselves from that incident because even those operators who stormed the city hall were invited to the Drakensberg to meet the new consultant, but decided not to attend.”

He said nobody had been excluded from any process because they had not as yet elected a steering committee that would comprise elected leaders of all the affected associations.

“Once we elect the steering committee, we will ensure that all leaders of the affected associations are part of it,” said Zondi.

Last year Ndlela unveiled the R3 billion IRPTN public transport plan to help alleviate traffic congestion, reduce transport times and create jobs.

The initiative will be similar to the bus rapid transit system in Cape Town and Johannesburg, which will see separate traffic lanes for buses, taxis, bicycles and pedestrians.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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