Tensions in taxi dispute escalate

2016-06-22 06:00
THE police and traffic officers had to blockade the road to prevent any taxis from loading at the Shoprite KTA rank after the taxi operators had clashed. Photo: Boipelo Mere

THE police and traffic officers had to blockade the road to prevent any taxis from loading at the Shoprite KTA rank after the taxi operators had clashed. Photo: Boipelo Mere

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“THREATS of violence or intimidation cannot be a means to resolve differences.”

This was emphasised by the provincial MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Pauline Williams, in response to the current threats of violence by local taxi operators in Kimberley.

She called for an immediate end to threats of taxi violence in Kimberley and intimidation in the taxi industry, amidst concern that it will also impact those relying on its services for transportation.

The taxi operators, who prefer to be called service providers instead of “the third force”, as they were dubbed by their opponents, threatened to allow bloodshed to occur if push comes to shove.

The statement follows a report in last week’s edition of Express Northern Cape which reported on an altercation between two rival taxi operator groups at the Kimberley Taxi Association (KTA) rank near Shoprite.

The altercation, which led to the threats of violence in the central business district, followed after two groups of taxi operators had accused each other of poaching the other’s commuters in town.

The KTA said they had been provoked by the other group, who had continued to load right next to their rank at Shoprite.

KTA chairperson, John Paul, lashed out at the department and said it had to clean up the mess it had created by having issued non-gazetted permits.

“They have interdicted us against touching their vehicles or drivers, then they provoked us by stealing our customers. Now we are losing business while we are waiting for the department and the municipality to intervene,” explained the chairperson of the KTA, John Paul.

Paul further recommended that the permits that had been issued be withdrawn, as they were not legitimate.

“Now they are telling us that they had called the illegal operators to a disciplinary hearing.”

In a statement, the MEC highlighted that the department was aware of some of the challenges raised by the affected parties and that engagements to resolve the dispute were in progress.

She said that the department was working with other law enforcement agencies in a bid to resolve the matter.

“We must emphasise that anyone loading in a non-designated loading area will be transgressing the authority awarded to them by their operating licences and they could therefore have their licences withdrawn,” she warned.

A call has been made to the parties in the dispute to co-operate with the department in an effort to find a quick, amicable and reasonable solution.

Lesley Terblanche, a spokesperson for 30 of the service providers, said they were willing to sit down with all parties to resolve this matter, but they had been locked out by the KTA who had referred to them as non-members.

He said they had also tried on numerous occasions to approach the KTA, but their overtures had been rejected.

He stated that the KTA had refused to sit down at a table with them and that this body had continued to bully the department.

In response to this allegation, the department said that it had an open door policy. Terblanche, however, revealed that he had requested a meeting with the MEC’ office in which the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) would also have been present. His request had not been granted.

“We want to put our grievances on the table for discussion, that we are unhappy with the loading zone (Kim Park) that was awarded to us.

“It is difficult to work from there, because there are no commuters, as the traffic flows down to town. We are forced to come and look for people in town in order to be able to pay for our vehicles,” emphasised Terblanche.

He accused the KTA of using the pre-1994 Transport Act to run their association.

According to Terblanche, all they had requested on the numerous occasions they had approached the department, was for the department to make this a priority case in order to prevent bloodshed.

“We are the ones who initiated meetings between the relevant parties and now it feels like we are the ones who are being pushed aside.”

“But come Friday (24/06), if nothing had been done by then, we would be entering the Roodepan taxi rank by force. The Roodepan Taxi Association has refused to co-operate with other people. They push people while government tries to create jobs for the unemployed.

“We are not intimidated by threats that the department will withdraw our permits. If that happens we will go to the tribunal,” Terblanche said.

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