Taxi war boils over

2015-04-30 16:57

A TAXI WAR has erupted between taxi owners of Odendaalsrus and those of Welkom – causing panic among passengers.

The war involves members of the Welkom United Taxi Association (Wuta) and those of Kutlwanong, who have formed an interim body called the Kutlwanong Taxi Structure (KTS).

The bone of contention is the rights to transport passengers and to operate on routes in the two Goldfields towns, Odendaalsrus and Welkom.

A meeting held last week between leaders of the two associations and representatives of the Free State Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport proved futile.

Last Wednesday (18/03) and Thursday (19/03) the public in both towns witnessed a standoff as the fight ensued between rival associations. On Wednesday (18/03), fed-up taxi owners and drivers closed off the Kutlwanong Taxi Rank, including all exit and entry routes into the township. Business came to a standstill.

Kutlwanong residents who work in mines in Welkom were left stranded as taxis did not operate. School children attending school in Welkom were also affected and were forced to remain home. This was done so that taxis from Welkom could not operate.

Early Thursday morning (19/03), taxi owners and drivers from Welkom, believed to be members of Wuta, hit back, blockading all entry and exit points into Welkom.

The flow of traffic was disrupted as an army of men stopped all minibuses suspec-ted to be from Kutlwanong, forcing commuters off those minibuses. Passengers on their way to work were left stranded.

At the intersection near the Bongani Regional Hospital and the Welkom campus of the Central University of Technolgy (CUT) tempers reached boiling point and almost erupted into violence.

Angry taxi-owners of Kutlwanong attribute their actions to the fact that the Free State Transport and Public Register did not grant them the same rights as their Welkom counterparts to do business.

Speaking anonymously, owners and drivers told Express

they were confined to routes in Kutlwanong while taxis from Welkom operated on all routes. They transport commuters between Welkom and Odendaalsrus and also within the Kutlwanong township.

“We are very much against that decision. Kutlwanong taxis do not operate in Welkom, Thabong and Bronville, yet taxis from Welkom have that privilege,” says the owner.

Aggrieved taxi owners of Kutlwanong are blaming the register for the chaotic situation which has caused instability in the industry. Welkom taxi owners say they will continue to operate on all routes since they have been granted those rights.

Early Monday morning (23/03), taxi owners of Kutlwanong had their minibuses impounded by the police in Welkom. The intervention by the police public order unit to quell off the bitter battle seems to have not stabilised things as the situation remains tense.

About ten residents of Kutlwanong were arrested and are still in custody following a clash with police. Worried taxi commuters told Express they feel unsafe.

) Watch a video of the protest at www.express-news.co.za

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